David Beckham has made the move from the soccer field to the big screen, but will he continue to appear in movies following his already infamous King Arthur cameo? The iconic footballer was expanding his reach even when the mud on his boots was fresh, with a plethora of successful ventures ranging from charity to fashion turning him into a lifetime A-lister, and now he's set his eyes on the multiplex.
Beckham actually made his acting debut two years ago in Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with a very brief cameo as a Russian projectionist. You're forgiven for not noticing - he only appeared on screen for two shots wearing glasses and mostly shrouded in darkness, with his one line in a foreign language and delivered with an accent. However, for his part in the director's next film, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, he's front and center.
The moment itself is rather brief, but being part of the essential moment where Charlie Hunnam's brawler-cum-ruler actually pulls the sword from the stone is impossible to miss. Beckham plays Trigger, the British soldier in charge of shepherding the hundreds of young men Jude Law's King Vortigern has rounded up for testing on Excalibur in the hope of finding the crown's true heir. Trig's a scarred war vet (half his face is covered in prosthetics, presumably to make David's eventual turn to camera more surprising) with a rather short temper, backhandedly telling Arthur to grab the sword before getting condescendingly aggressive with a piece of unexpected innuendo, "ten digits, round the black bit, give it a tug". It's available online in a truncated version online (read: no innuendo), but needs to be seen in full to truly appreciate. In that regard, it's one of the few reasons to actually pay to watch the film.
In terms of quality, though, Beckham doesn't bring it. The career transition jokes write themselves (so let's not even bother), but it's now clear all those affectations in U.N.C.L.E. were there to hide that he really isn't up to the level, even for just one scene. His delivery is robotic, inflection non-existent, accent laughable and the whole thing has an air of nepotism about it being Ritchie's friend despite his status. That may be why the scene has been so savaged in reviews when it's otherwise rather inoffensive in contrast to Arthur's journey.
Indeed, it would have worked much better had the film a purer Guy Ritchie picture. King Arthur at points feels exactly like what you'd expect from the Lock, Stock director - full of fist fights and cockney montage storytelling. Arthur even announces the third act by commanding his knights "gather the lads". Unfortunately, it's also a movie that Warner Bros. inexplicably spent $175 million on, and so it has a lot of interesting stuff cut out in favor of rushed montages, empty mythological CGI and Jude Law as a Terminator. Had it been more of that "lads" film, Beckham's cameo wouldn't have just felt more in place, it could have actually heightened it.
But enough on the moment and what might have been - what of Beckham's acting future? After all, the last time Guy Ritchie plucked a Premier League star and put them on celluloid he gave the world Vinnie Jones, who, while not starring in much of actual worth, few would say hasn't been prolific. And, of course, Beckham's former Manchester United teammate Eric Cantona has had a strong acting run in both the English language and his native French. Can he join the ranks?
His co-workers have some positivity. Talking to Sky News, Ritchie said "He was fantastic, I love old Becksy. He is a fabulous actor and a real pleasure to be with.", while Hunnam revealed, "I thought he was just going to show up for a laugh because he is Guy's friend, but he took it all very, very seriously." They're obviously not going to trash the "actor" as their film enters theatres, but the choice of focus show at least some endorsement of technique.
However, following the film's disastrous performance at the domestic office, the man himself appears to be having second thoughts. Speaking to OK, he downplayed any career aspirations and simply called it a favor to his friend Ritchie:
"I haven't taken a step into acting, this is just doing something with someone I love as a friend and director. He said just come down and have a little bit of fun. It's not a new career but working with Charlie was a real laugh and something that was incredible to be a part of."
And maybe that's it - maybe this is one of those sudden filmic flirtations we get over and over from non-actors (think Shaquille O'Neal but with a producer not being conceited enough to cast him in the lead). If it is, then there's not much Hollywood can actually offer to the Beckham Brand long term. He's already instantly recognizable and is a good fifteen years out from this fame peak so there's little profile or financial purpose to it. It does appear he's doing out of personal investment.
It must be said that the actor is coming off a bit of a savaging and based on comments had real stock in the role - "I've always liked a challenge but usually it's to do with sports and usually I've known in the end I'm going to be okay. But with this one I didn't know I'd be okay. So it was nice to put myself out there." - so those reviews are going to sting especially hard. But time will pass, backlash will subside and it's possible he'll give it another stab.
Given that he appeared in U.N.C.L.E. and now Arthur, Beckham coming back for Guy Ritchie's upcoming live-action Disney remake Aladdin is still a fair bet. Quite how in line with the original (or the Mouse House's wider sensibilities) this musical will be is still unclear, but as the project has been described as "highly energized" in Ritchie's unique way it definitely wouldn't be out of place. That said, if Disney do let it fly, they probably won't have it lead the marketing like it did with King Arthur; as much a novelty as it may be, the Trigger clip is hardly a great bit of advertising.
Beyond that it's unclear. The whole idea of "David Beckham: Actor" came from these Ritchie bit parts, with next to no interest on the footballer's part to appear elsewhere (his IMDb page isn't even full of comedy bits like many of his contemporaries). He's the director's friend popping up in the student play so as to not be left out. Maybe he'll audition on his own at some point but, unlike Excalibur, he won't be moving anytime soon.
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) release date: May 12, 2017