BBC backs new Riverhorse documentary on Bill Shankly
BBC Scotland has commissioned Salford-based media production company, Riverhorse, to produce a new feature documentary on the legendary Scottish manager of Liverpool FC, Bill Shankly.
The film, Shankly: Nature’s fire, is a film that searches for the soul of British football. It is set to be a poignant and nostalgic journey into the origins of the world’s favourite game. It will also be a study of Britain in the 20th century and of the rise and fall of the industrial heartlands, where the sport meant so much to so many.
It is also about how heroes still matter – and how legends are born that transcend generations. Few people have made such an impact through sport as Bill Shankly.
In exploring the life and times of Bill Shankly, the film looks at why this man – and his singular vision to make Liverpool the greatest football club in the world – came to leave such a legacy in his adopted home city.
Following the basic arc of a biopic, the film will also interweave a contemporary narrative of Liverpool now, of fans today and how they still rally around Shankly’s name.
Shankly was born and raised in the now almost mythical town of Glenbuck: the Camelot of football. What was the culture and ethos of Shankly’s upbringing that became so intertwined with his philosophies about football and life?
With extensive archive, mixed with interviews and observational footage, the film will give contemporary viewers a real sense of Shankly’s personality and the time of his reign.
Two years in the making, filming was finished in May and there is an impressive array of contributors involved: players such as Ian St John, Denis Law, Roger Hunt, Kevin Keegan, Steven Gerrard and commentators including legendary sports writer Hugh Mcillvanney and author Irvine Welsh, as well as family members and fans.
Peter Hooton, lead singer of Liverpool group The Farm and a major LFC fan has worked as a producer on the film: “Shankly epitomised a different set of values that I think are still admired to this day. He was a charismatic leader but believed in a collective effort with everyone pulling in the same direction.
“I agreed to be involved in the making of this documentary because Shankly was my boyhood hero - I idolised the man, so I was determined to do his story justice. He built Liverpool Football Club up from the doldrums of the Second Division to be in his own words 'a bastion of invincibility.' He was quite simply our Messiah and his name resonates through the ages.”
The film is directed by filmmaker Mike Todd, whose previous feature documentaries include Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears and Hustlers Convention.
Todd explains why he chose to make the film: “Bill Shankly is one of the most iconic sporting figures of the 20th Century. Much has been said and written about him but this film will hopefully bring a new and expansive look at how and why his legacy has remained so strong.
Unlike many sports biopics, the fans will form a central part of this piece. Their voice will appear alongside the recognisable football names. We wanted to explore the unique relationship fans have with their clubs and how it relates to the roots of the game.”
The film has been commissioned for BBC Scotland by its Commissioning Head, Ewan Angus, who stated: “Shankly is clearly a unique figure who transcends football and sport. His story reflects the changing nature of society in the 20th Century and I’m sure it will prove really popular with our audiences.”
The film is scheduled for completion in the Autumn and will be distributed in the UK and Ireland by Thunderbird Releasing.