Belfast Telegraph

Sam Neill's Fifa film takes just £398 at US box office

By Claire McNeilly

A new movie about Fifa starring Ulster-born actor Sam Neill has bombed at the US box office, with takings totalling a pitiful £398 on its opening weekend.

United Passions, which is Fifa-funded and chronicles the origins of football's governing body, is on course to be one of the worst performing movies ever.

The US screening of what is essentially a 110-minute advert for Fifa, coincided with the arrest of many of the body's officials as part of an FBI corruption probe and the resignation of controversial president Sepp Blatter.

Viewings of United Passions were held New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Phoenix, Kansas City, Miami, Minneapolis, Houston, Dallas and Philadelphia, yet it still made less than what a single screen in a Belfast cineplex would deliver over an average weekend.

On Friday, its first day of release, the film earned £209 at all 10 theatres. The following day it did worse, taking in £189 for a two-day total of £398. In contrast, Fifty Shades of Grey, starring Ulster actor Jamie Dornan, made £161.6m at the box office on its opening weekend - the highest global debut of 2015 so far and 21st highest of all time.

In United Passions, Omagh-born Neill plays Brazilian ex-Fifa chief Joao Havelange, while English thespian Tim Roth plays Blatter. Gerard Depardieu takes the role of another long-running president, Jules Rimet, the man after whom the original World Cup trophy was named.

It is believed Blatter had the right to approve the script, which allegedly underplays corruption claims and portrays Blatter as a fighter for truth and justice.

The film, which cost £20m to make, including £17m supplied by Fifa, was panned by critics prior to its limited US release. But Neill (67) said he had no regrets about his involvement.

The Co Tyrone-born actor's mother, Priscilla, is English, and, at the time of his birth, his father, a Harrow and Sandhurst-educated British Army officer, was stationed in Northern Ireland. His father's family owned Neill and Co, the largest liquor retailers in New Zealand.

In an interview, Neill said:"I was born in Omagh, we lived in Armagh and my favourite place was Tyrella Beach. I (remember having) whooping cough and thinking I was going do die. I nearly died, but here I am."

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