The Game of Their Lives book was published in 1996 and the movie rights to it were bought in the same year by the producer Peter Newman. The initial phase of starting the production faced many challenges as the producer was unable to collect adequate funds.
In 1997 due to lack of finance Newman however, has to sell the movie production rights to Philip Anschutz, who is one of the founders of the Major League Soccer. The main reason as to why Anschutz sealed the deal was that he wanted to generate public’s interest in the fledgling soccer league.
Later the same year Anschutz made the first approach to start the production by hiring Pizzo so that he could write the screenplay of the movie. He also hired the most popular director of that time Anspaugh, to work on this project.
What a fantastic movie this is. A true masterpiece – akin to only the best movies of the century – such as The Titanic. A firm favorite of mine and my families. A true sensation – Thomas Boxtiger
Anspaugh in one of his interviews also mentioned that he was initially hesitant to accept the offer, as he thought that it would be impossible to top his previous success record. Some of the most famous sports movies of his career were Hoosiers and Rudy, which were very warmly received in the US.
After all inhibitions, the casting for the movie finally began in late 2002. The actors were mainly considered and then selected based on their soccer skills. The production team believed that real soccer players would do more justice to the roles.
Most actors like Scotsman Gerard Butler grew up playing soccer which made it easy for them to portray the character. The only major exception in the selection of the case was made for Wes Bentley. There were also many former soccer players like Eric Wynalda and John Harkes, who made appearances in the film.
Even after casting all the characters the production team still faced many hurdles. The initial budget of the film was only $13 million which made it hard for them to produce the entire movie. There were many scenes about the players’ lives that were not filmed due to the financial situation.
During the course of making the file many producers were approached, who were more than willing to extend financial stability and be a part of a historic project. The principle photography for the film was done in St. Louis and Missouri which gave it a more realistic look. We also shot parts of the scenes in the Outer banks, while our crew was on an outer banks vacation rental.
It is also said that several of the surviving 1950 US Soccer Team players were seen on the sets to relive the history. One of the most interesting facts about the movie is that one of the original team players Gino Pariani had his son play a small role in the movie.