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WIMBLEDON

About The Production
The long history of the Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, regarded as the world's leading tennis tournament, began with a "Gentlemen's Singles” match in 1877. For the record, Spencer Gore won from a field of 22 players; around 200 spectators were charged one shilling to watch the final.

The not so long history of the Working Title Films romantic comedy Wimbledon began around 120 years later in the late 1990s, when screenwriters Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin came up with the idea of a love story set amidst the world of professional tennis. They approached Working Title, whose list of successful films, particularly their romantic comedies, had established them as the pre-eminent production company in Europe. The company was intrigued by the project and snapped up the story.

"We loved the idea,” says producer and Working Title Films co-founder Eric Fellner. "The way in which the characters were set up, the fact that it was an ‘underdog' type of story and the idea of professional tennis serving as the backdrop for this love story—it had all the ingredients to make a great film. It provided us another opportunity to tell an interesting story in an appealing way.”

"Whether you love tennis or hate tennis, it doesn't matter, because this is a story that will entertain audiences,” says producer Liza Chasin, herself an avid player who grew up in Forest Hills, N.Y., near the prestigious West Side Tennis Club (former site of the U.S. Open). "Not only do people love an underdog story, but they love it when the underdog just might end up with the girl, too.”

Balancing all of the elements present in the story would prove a challenge for the filmmaker who would ultimately occupy the director's chair—someone adept at handling the romantic, comedic and dramatic aspects, as well as someone who could capture the sport filmically, presenting it in a way that would "open up” the expected and stereotypical back-and-forth nature of the game. Known primarily for his dramatic films and television projects (My House in Umbria, Richard III, The Gathering Storm), Richard Loncraine might not have seemed at first glance as a perfect fit for the job.

Loncraine himself professes, "I am not an avid sports fan and I haven't really done that much that could be termed romantic comedy. But I was really excited by the project—it had an energy and a freshness about it. And I have to admit that my kids had been saying to me, ‘Dad, can you make a movie that we might want to go and see?'”

Fellner and the producers felt strongly that Loncraine would be an excellent choice to helm the project and cemented his participation. Fellner offers, "Richard is a great storyteller. He's a fantastically visual storyteller and we wanted someone who could not only tell the story with depth and emotion, but also tell it in an interesting, cinematic way. Richard was a marvelous choice to direct.”

Loncraine embraced the challenge of not only working in the genre, but also overcoming many obstacles in filming scenes involving tennis, most of which would be played on some of the most honored ground in sports. "I really wanted to have a go at doing a comedy of this sort and I thought it would be new and a bit difficult for me. I mean, with a comedy, if they don't laugh, it's not funny, then you've screwed up. It was a real challenge making a romantic comedy like this—probably as hard as anything that I've done. It's been hard sometimes, but marvelous as well.”

And the tennis element?

"If you're doing a monster movie about a 50-foot-high pterodactyl, nobody really knows what that looks like. But they know exactly how a tennis ball bouncing on Centre Court looks,” observes the director. "Basically, it's almost like making two movies. Doing a romantic comedy, you think, ‘Fine, the comedy comes out of reality, it spr

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