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Blackball is a 2003 British comedy sports film about Cliff Starkey (played by Paul Kaye), a fictional rebellious young bowls player. His dream is to play for his country, but always preferred to play by his own rules, much to the disapproval of the local bowls club. After winning the local bowling competition he is subsequently banned from competing in the sport for fifteen years by the head of the local lawn bowls association, Ray Speight (James Cromwell), for writing an expletive on an opponent's scorecard. Picked up by sports agent Rick Schwartz (Vince Vaughn), Starkey is re-branded as the 'bad boy of bowls', turning the normally sedate sport into a glitzy, in-your-face competition. He and Speight take on Australia's unbeaten Doohan brothers in 'The Ashes'; a one-off tournament in a custom made bowls arena in Torquaymarker. They make a remarkable comeback thanks to Speight's experience and Starkey's extravagance, while Cliff also bends the rules to the maximum to force the game into extra time, much to the disbelief of Carl and Mark Doohan.

During the last interval, Starkey and Speight retrieve the black balls (that Starkey abandoned earlier in the movie) from the beach and return to the stadium. Starkey's confidence, Speight's concentration and the power of the black balls beat the Doohan brothers in a brilliant finale.

Although the plot is fictional, the central character of Cliff Starkey is based on real-life bowls player Griff Sanders. On the BBC Two series Comedy Map of Britain, broadcast 3 February 2007, Sanders joked that Kaye was 'not good-looking enough' to play him, and that his performance was 'crap', while Kaye claimed that Sanders was 'annoying' and had been banned from attending the filming because he irritated everyone on set.

The film also spoofed Bjørge Lillelien's infamous commentary from Norway's 2-1 defeat of England at football in 1981. This was first spoofed on David Baddiel and Frank Skinner's Fantasy Football League programme, and was spoofed by the commentator on the England-Australia climax in the film. Incidentally, the other commentator for the match was Angus Loughran, who played 'Statto' on Fantasy Football.

Blackball was filmed on the Isle of Manmarker and Torquaymarker during October and November 2002.

Cast List



  • Comedian Vic Reeves is often listed as being in the film, and was scheduled to play the director of the cola advertisement, but other commitments prevented him from doing so. He does not appear in the end credits of the film.


External links

Tim Firth wrote the screenplay for Blackball: http://www.timfirth.com


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