A movie dramatizing the life of William Ralph “Dixie” Dean, one of England’s most legendary soccer stars, will shoot later this year. Dean will be played by Toby Kebbell (“Planet of the Apes”) and the picture will take in his career, his little-known struggle with mental-health issues, and how his family, notably his daughter Barbara, helped him cope.
Barbara is a consultant on the picture and said she hopes it will celebrate her father’s achievements as well as shine a light on mental-health issues, which were a taboo topic in Dixie’s time. “There was no help for me as there was such a stigma back then, but I hope this film can help others,” she said. “My father was a hero but I’ve kept his secret for a long time. I buried it. It was something my mother, Ethel, and I kept close to our hearts.”
The iconic center forward was one of soccer’s first superstars, and played for his country and Everton Football Club, famously scoring 60 goals in the 1928 season, a record that still stands. Although a star player, Dixie forged his career generations before huge transfer fees and pay packets, traveling to matches with the fans and cementing his place in soccer lore.
A year before his record-breaking 60-goal season, he had suffered multiple injuries in a motorbike accident and defied doctors to return to the game. A statue of Dixie stands outside Everton FC’s Goodison Park stadium.
Sara Jandrain (“The Prom”) and Orian Williams (“Control”) are producing the film, and Simon Aboud (“This Beautiful Fantastic”) will direct from a script from theater director and writer Matt Aston and John McEvoy. Greg Schenz VP of 13 Films exec produces and principal photography starts this fall.
Jandrain said that the issues touched upon, as revealed by Barbara, show a side to the story of Dixie Dean and his family not seen before: “She opens our eyes to the heroics of not only her dad but of her and her mum when they found a way to survive. This is very much a story about women and men equally.”
“It is an incredible story that feels utterly modern,” Aboud added. “A story that centers on the incredible strength of women who refused to accept that Dixie’s life was over and ultimately, through Barbara, brought him back to the football club he had loved all his life.”
Kebbell is represented by CAA and Independent, Aboud by Gersh, Independent and Untitled Talent, and Aston by Colin Blumeneau at The Production Exchange.