Wednesday, January 12, 2011

John McEnroe, Steven Spielberg, and the making of a legitimate tennis movie


Curator’s note
: John McEnroe implores Steven Spielberg to make a tennis movie.  He even offers movie suggestions - most of them starring himself. 


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John McEnroe
Director, John McEnroe Tennis Academy
SPORTIME Randall's IslandOne Randall's IslandNew York, NY 10035

January 4, 2011

Steven Spielberg
DreamWorks Studios

Dear Steven,

I’m concerned about the state of America men’s tennis.  We haven’t produced a singles Major champion in eight years.  I have hopes with my new tennis center, but I'm having trouble getting the kids to listen to me.  Many of them play with their feet to keep their hands free for texting.  Talk about distracted tennis!  Plus, they stick to the baseline like Darrelle Revis on wide receivers.  They refuse to serve and volley.  You cannot be serious?

I write today, Steven, because I think you can help.  I remember you making a few successful movies over the years, but I don’t think you’ve ever directed one about sports.  Maybe a tennis movie to fill that gap in your resume?  Movies can be great motivators.  I haven’t been swimming since I saw Jaws.  You did that one, right?  Well, just like Jaws motivated people to stay out of the water, maybe a Steven Spielberg tennis movie would inspire more kids to get on the tennis court.   

Almost every major sport offers its share of great flicks.  Basketball has Hoosiers and Hoop Dreams.  Baseball has Bull Durham and The Bad News Bears.  Football has Rudy and Remember the Titans.  Soccer has Victory and Bend It Like Beckham.  Golf has Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore.  Hockey has Slapshot and Mystery, Alaska.  Boxing has Cinderella Man and Rocky

Even “minor” sports and games have inspired great theater: Karate Kid, The Wrestler, Rounders, Riding Giants, Invictus, Kingpin, The Color of Money, Seabiscuit, Talladega Nights, and Over the Top.  Heck, even ice skating gets in on the action with Blades of Glory

These movies are inspirational.  They are calls to action for kids to get out and play sports.  Tennis, however, has proved so uninspiring to movie makers that Bleacher Report’s The 100 Greatest Sports Movies of All Time doesn’t include one about the world’s favorite racket sport.

And rightfully so!

To my knowledge there is only one “tennis” movie.  Wimbledon – featuring Kirstin Dunst and Paul Bettany.  One blogger writes, “It’s the best tennis movie I’ve ever seen.”  Uh, that’s like me saying To Kill a Mockingbird is the best Harper Lee novel I’ve ever read.  Wimbledon is billed as an endearing romantic comedy.  Not quite.  It’s about as endearing as Mike Tyson chewing on an ear.

Woody Allen’s Match Point is a philosophical thriller set against a tennis backdrop.  It’s a good movie because Woody Allen makes good movies and Scarlett Johansson looks great in tennis (and all other) attire.  But it’s not a tennis movie, just like Bon Yoyage, Charlie Brown isn’t a tennis movie despite that awesome scene where Snoopy and Woodstock face-off at Wimbledon.

And let’s not talk about Nobody’s Perfect, where that guy disguises himself as a female tennis player to get close to the girl of his dreams.  I think "that guy" is Chad Lowe.  Enough said.

So where does that leave us?  With a big fat void to fill.  And I think you're just the man for the job.  Any tennis film you lend your name and expertise to will certainly crack the Sports Top 100.  Result: kids will stop sexting and start serving.

Right now I’m sure ideas are bouncing around your head like tennis balls.  If I may, let me share a few of my own:

You Cannot be Serious?  A compilation of highlights of me insulting linesmen.  This one could be interactive.  Kids could vote on the best tirade and practice on their friends in a pseudo tennis karaoke/screaming competition.

The Match: McEnroe vs. Borg, 1980 U.S. Open Final.  That’s it.  Just put the match on a DVD, add a bit of commentary, and called it a tennis movie.

Saving John McEnroe.  Remake of Saving Private Ryan, where the Allies storm the beaches with tennis rackets and then march inland in search of private John McEnroe.  I’ll play myself.

Tennis Horror.  Kids like scary stuff, right?  (I’m thinking Halo.)  So cobble the “worst” tennis moments together into a horror flick.  I’m talking footage of Serena Williams threatening to choke that linesman to death and Rafael Nadal picking his butt, and highlights of Chris Lewis in the 1983 finals of Wimbledon (against me) and Guillermo Coria melting down in the 2004 French Open final.  I guess you could throw in Monica Seles getting stabbed for horror effect, but you’d probably get hammered for that.

On a lighter note, how about Shrek 5: Shrek Meets John McEnroe.  Basically, Shrek goes in search of the legendary John McEnroe to discover the lost art of serve and volleying.  DVD will include bonus features of me demonstrating proper serve and volley technique. 

McEnroe.  Tennis pro John McEnroe, played by Michael C. Hall, gives lessons during the day and stalks serial killers at night.  He kills his victims either by bashing in their brains in with a Prince Hybrid Shark OS or choking them with Babolat Pro Hurricane string.  Then he buries the bodies under his teaching court.  But what happens when he discovers Ivan Lendl, played by John Lithgow, has discovered his little secret?

Lemme know what you think?

Sincerely,
Johnny Mac

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Steven Spielberg
DreamWorks Studios

January 12, 2011

John McEnroe
Director, John McEnroe Tennis Academy
SPORTIME Randall's IslandOne Randall's IslandNew York, NY 10035

Dear John,

Isn’t that last idea a rip off of “Dexter”?

Still, let's go with a horror flick.  We’ll simply show clips of you losing to Borg in the 1980 Wimbledon final.  Then you can get eaten by a shark.

Sincerely,
Steven

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