By Wladimir Weltman, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – There has been some talk about ex-soccer-player-turned-into-actor Vinnie Jones, producing the remake of “Escape to Victory”, a 1981 film by director John Huston. Considered by soccer fans as the greatest football film ever made, the film is set in the Second World War and it tells of a football match between a group of allied prisoners against the German National team.

Iconic Brazilian football star Pelé acting in “Escape to Victory”, a 1981 film by director John Huston, photo recreation.
Iconic Brazilian football star Pelé acting in “Escape to Victory”, a 1981 film by director John Huston, image recreation.

The all star cast included Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone and soccer players Pelé, Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, and Mike Summerbee.

Now Vinnie Jones wants to summon a new team of stars for the remake: David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry and Wayne Rooney. Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone and Pelé are invited for cameo appearances.

In Brazil most fans are enthusiastic about the project. Nelson Freitas, a top Brazilian TV and film comedian loves the idea: “I think it will be great to see a remake of the film”, he said. “I was a kid when ‘Escape to Victory’ was released. We used to play soccer on the streets pretending we were the guys in the movie. We used a neighbor’s garage door as the Nazi’s goal. Every time we scored, it banged loudly at the metal door and the neighbor, an immigrant from Japan, would put his head out the window to call us bad names in Japanese. It was perfect; we had a genuine representative of the Axis to confront…”

Globo TV Network screenwriter, Gustavo Gontijo, finds the decision to remake “Escape to Victory” timely, especially if they release the film during 2014 Soccer World Cup, which will happen in Brazil: “It will be the perfect opportunity,” he said. “When released the first film generated great interest among soccer fans all over the world. If they succeed in gathering a ‘team’ of players as good as the original one, the film will be a winner, for sure! After all, the project combines the two best sources of popular entertainment – soccer and movies!”

But not everybody shares these points of view. Christopher Pickard, Editor at Travel Plus, Managing Director at Critical Divide, someone who lived for many years in Rio, and wrote the book BERLITZ RIO DE JANEIRO, criticizes the remake: “I can’t say I am a huge fan of Vinnie Jones as an actor”, he says. “And the original ‘Escape to Victory’ was not a great film, but fun.”

For most Brazilians the appeal of “Escape to Victory” was the presence of Pelé playing soccer with Sylvester Stallone. Nelson Freitas remembers that: “Edison Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé’s real name) was becoming a world figure beyond the sports arena at the time. It was a pleasure to see him kick the ball in such prestigious situation. Although his acting ability was quite limited.”

Sylvester Stallone stars in “Escape to Victory”, image recreation.

Pedro Só, Editor-in-Chief defends the great player from criticism: “In the original film Pelé was just playing Pelé”, he said. “Which is quite enough. Let’s face it, the guy is charismatic. Many complained about him as an actor, but I think that Pelé the actor wasn’t much worst then his fellow thespian Sylvester Stallone…”

What really matters to Brazilians is the chance of suggesting names for the remake. They love to select players for a soccer team… Gontijo says that: “Kaká should be there; after all he is quite good looking and a phenomenal player as well. As a defense player they should call our Lúcio. He would frighten the German players a lot, inside and outside the field. He could really kick some Nazi asses.”

Nelson Freitas thinks that the Casting Director will have a tough time choosing his dream team: “To pick who’s going to play in this remake is a tough call. I also know that making a movie or playing a soccer game are two different things; the soccer coach aims for goals, but the producer aims for profit. Having said that I must end by stating that: to make a film about soccer and not having Brazilian players in it is just like making hot dogs with no sausages… What’s the fun?”


  1. Wladimir, this movie had a good response in North America when it was released. Pele’ played for the New York Cosmos from 1975 to 1977. American soccer fans and a very critical sports media witnessed Pele’s great gifts and talents. Soccer wasn’t embraced but Pele’ surely captured more than a few hearts and minds.

    I enjoyed the movie when it first appeared and have seen it a few times over the years. The interplay between Pele’ and Stallone was interesting. The game between the Germans and the camp team was realistic. Ozzie Ardiles was still in his prime and it was great to watch him even if this was only a motion picture. Having Pele’ and Bobby Moore together (they played a few times in 1976 for “Team America”) was also an added treat.

    I am pleased that a remake is in the works.

    Thank you and all the best wishes.


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