Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos had its North American premiere at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, and the film's theatrical run begins in New York tomorrow (and will be expanding across the country in the weeks to come). The film is a magnificent, thrilling documentary -- that just happens to be yours truly's favorite film of the year -- about the rise and fall of the New York Cosmos, a professional soccer team that, for a very brief time in the late 1970s, ruled New York City. With a squad that included such international stars as Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer, the team sold out Giants stadium -- that's over 70,000 people -- multiple times, and won several NASL titles.
Producer John Battsek and co-director/editor Paul Crowder sat down with Cinematical shortly before their film's premiere at Tribeca to talk about Once in a Lifetime, Chelsea (the football club, not the part of Manhattan) and international soccer; the movie-related bits of that conversation appear below.
Cinematical: How did you guys come upon this story? How did the movie come about?
John Battsek: I'd just come off Live Forever which is a sort of Britpop feature doc, and I was talking to a guy -- a friend of mind in New York -- just thinking about what one might do next, and he mentioned the New York Cosmos. And it's one of those things where -- because I'm a big big football fan, big sports fan, big soccer fan -- it was one of those things that just immediately stuck in my head. I had a sort of vague, subliminal memory of big players being in New York, and I know that the Cosmos as a team were this incredibly well-regarded club, but I didn't really know the story, and that just intrigued me. A story set in New York, at that time, about football ...
And I've always had this thing about football ... I mean, it's slightly mean of me, but I've always thought the joke is on America, you know, because America does for the most part regard itself as the greatest country in the world, and yet this sport -- that is played on every square millimeter of the entire planet by everyone if they've got half a second to play it -- and [American] people are like "Soccer ... it's boring," you know? And so the idea of a story set in America, dealing with this sport that America's never really got its head 'round, I thought sounded like it could be really interesting.