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WIMBLEDON

Training
Once brought onboard Wimbledon, nearly everyone involved underwent some kind of training to prepare for the physical aspects and challenges presented by the script. "I'm a bit like most people in England, I believe,” observes Loncraine. "When Wimbledon's on, I watch it and love it. I can't play tennis very well, but I've had lessons to learn. When the project came up, I watched every videotape I could find, I read 20 books on the history of the sport, and I read both Pat Cash's book and McEnroe's book. And I was surrounded by people with a deep love and understanding of the sport, so I really went into each scene knowing what emotion I wanted represented and worked with my team on how that emotion could work into the match—‘Will this work, you tell me.' It was quite a good marriage…a few little bits of turmoil along the way, but a good marriage nonetheless!”

Pat Cash was charged with turning the actors (Bettany, Dunst and Nichols) into facsimiles of contending Wimbledon champs. All began a pre-shoot, four month training regime to prepare for the on-screen matches. Cash supplies, "The production needed a tennis advisor, a consultant to choreograph the points and to make sure that Kirsten, Paul and Austin looked like professional tennis players. The goal of this training was to get command of the basics—how pros walk, hold the ball, that kind of stuff—and help them look like real players. The points need to look like real points and the rallies have to be there.

"It ended up being coaching in reverse,” Cash explains, "in that when I start with a player, it's all about getting the ball in the court—it's doesn't matter what it looks like. But since we had the luxury of most of the balls being CG, it came back to making the play look as real as possible.”

Producer Chasin adds matter-of-factly, "We'd burn too much film if we tried to hit an actual ball exactly where we need it to be for a shot.”

Cash concludes, "So our mantra was ‘Look good first and worry about where the ball goes second.' Sometimes, the ball went over the fence, but the actor got the look right. What was interesting was that we concentrated so much on technique, that eventually the ball started going in the court. I really enjoyed watching them improve. They worked really hard to get it. We had four months to make them look like Wimbledon champions. It would normally take 20 years to do that, so it was a huge challenge.”

Bettany began training "in earnest” at the beginning of 2003, four months out from shooting his first scenes. Up first on his schedule was a scene shot in Monte Carlo and he was "feeling smug and terribly pleased with myself after my months of training. And then I saw these professional players in action, who move like dancers—they've been hitting balls since they were four-years-old. And I suddenly felt like I'd said, ‘Yeah, I'd love to play Rudolf Nureyev, how long do I have to learn ballet?' So I did my best and I think I give an approximation!”

Cash had higher marks for Bettany and counters, "Paul went from never really having played any sports to moving like an athlete and he looks really good around the net where it matters—diving, lunging, quick reflexes—so I built his matches around that…which is sort of the style I played, so that was exciting to do.”

Loncraine adds, "Paul has an incredibly good serve, very powerful. Now it's somewhat inaccurate, but it has power and it looks good. He really beefed up and did a lot of work to get the look down and I think he looks like a tennis player.”

"For me it was all about focusing on the ball,” says Kirsten Dunst. "I'm very aggressive and I could use that on the court. My character really isn't afraid of anything and I tried to bring that to Lizzie's physicality. It's really a dance on the court, and I also tried to work that in. I<

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