Mark Rylance to star in golf film The Fantastic Flitcrofts

Friday 19th June 2020, 4:10pm

  • Mark Rylance will take the lead role in new British comedy film The Fantastic Flitcrofts
  • Written by Simon Farnaby, the movie tells the story of Maurice Flitcroft, "the world's worst golfer"
  • Rylance says: "This is the first comic film I have ever been offered"
Mark Rylance. Copyright: BBC.

Mark Rylance is to take the lead role in a British comedy film about Maurice Flitcroft, an amateur golfer who blagged entry to the 1976 British Open.

Deadline reveals that the award-winning stage actor will be making his big-screen comedy debut in The Fantastic Flitcrofts.

Described as a movie "about the world's worst golfer", the screenplay is written by Ghosts and Horrible Histories star Simon Farnaby.

Farnaby has also written films including Mindhorn and the internationally acclaimed Paddington 2.

Rylance, who starred as Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall (pictured), told Deadline he was looking forward to getting involved in the genre: "I am particularly thrilled to be offered a comedy. I have had some of my best times in the theatre in comedies, Boeing Boeing, and Twelfth Night in the West End and on Broadway. This is the first comic film I have ever been offered. A comedy of character and situation, which I love."

The project, which previously went under the title The Phantom Of The Open, is to be directed by Craig Roberts, as revealed in May by British Comedy Guide.

The story follows the adventures of Maurice Flitcroft, who gatecrashed the 1976 British Open tournament by pretending to be a professional, despite having never played 18 holes on a proper course.

In his qualifier he scored 49 over par at the Formby links, the highest in championship golf history, and has been dubbed "Don Quixote with a nine iron".

Roberts, also an actor and writer who starred as Emperor Nero in last year's Horrible Histories: The Movie, made his directorial debut with Just Jim in 2015. His second film, Eternal Beauty, starring Sally Hawkins and David Thewlis, is due for release in July.

Steve Coogan's production company Baby Cow will produce The Fantastic Flitcrofts with Water & Power Productions (Code 404, Aaaaaaaah!).

Nichola Martin from Baby Cow told Deadline: "We are so excited to be bringing this very special project to life. Simon, Craig and Mark are an exquisite trio, and Maurice's story - celebrating the power of the imagination and the bonds of family - is the perfect tale of hope for our times."

Tom Miller from Water & Power Productions added: "With Simon's incredible script and Craig's unique vision, not to mention the brilliance of Mark Rylance, we can't wait to get the wonderful true-life story of Maurice up and swinging on the big screen."

Paddington 2 writer Farnaby - who is also currently developing an as-yet-untitled US television series about a luckless comedian who becomes the American president, inspired by the election of Ukrainian television star-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky - wrote a biography of Flitcroft with journalist Scott Murray in 2010 based upon the celebrated chancer's unpublished memoirs, which forms the basis of the script.

Flitcroft was a former stunt diver, ice cream man and shoe polish salesman who didn't take up golf until middle-age, bought his clubs from a catalogue and wore plastic golf shoes. His antics earned him a ban from the Open but he continued to make it to the opening tee in further years by adopting other names and nationalities on the entry form.

His Daily Telegraph obituary described him as "a chain-smoking shipyard crane-operator from Barrow-in-Furness whose persistent attempts to gatecrash the British Open golf championship produced a sense of humour failure among members of the golfing establishment".

"Maurice only discovered golf at the age of 46 and thought it was his calling in life. He didn't know he was bad, even when he got into the Open and shot 121," Farnaby told The Scottish Sun in 2017.

"He became a cult figure - a bit like Eddie The Eagle. There are clubs in America that still give out a Maurice Flitcroft trophy every year to their worst golfer.

"I've always loved golf because my dad was a greenskeeper so I grew up around golf courses. I used to play off four."

Farnaby previously created the live show The Peterford Golf Club and a 2015 radio pilot of the same name with Gary Le Strange creator Waen Shepherd, which became a TV pilot for E4 in 2007 called Golf War, starring Matt Berry, Nina Conti and Rich Fulcher.

The prolific Farnaby is also currently developing several other film scripts, including adaptations of the popular children's properties Mr Benn, Action Man and The Magic Faraway Tree.

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