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Alex Bowden pens down the best and worst Hollywood cameos – the highs and lows of cricket’s fleeting appearances on the silver screen in issue 22 of the Wisden Cricket Monthly.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
This Wes Anderson comedy focuses on three brothers who are travelling through India on a train. From time to time they get off and wander about a bit and on one of these jaunts we see approximately one whole second of cricket. A bunch of kids play in a crumbling courtyard. The batsman slogs it to cow corner. “They’re playing cricket with a tennis ball,” says Adrien Brody’s character. His tone makes it sound like it’s the weirdest thing in the world, when this is in fact the standard way of playing cricket when you’re a child. Full marks for authenticity.
Vertical Limit (2000)
A mediocre film about things going wrong during an ascent of K2, Vertical Limit is arguably most memorable for Bill Paxton’s inexplicable refusal to fully zip up his jacket even when he finds himself in a dying-because-of-the-cold situation. At one point the film somewhat unexpectedly features a few short frames of a cricket match played at base camp. We see a left-armer deliver some rank leg-side filth that the batsman cannot make contact with and then everyone looks somewhat alarmed. It’s not the bowling that elicits this reaction, but the helicopter that rises up from beneath them. Turns out they’re playing next to a giant precipice. You can’t imagine the match lasted too long before they lost the ball. Hell of a backdrop though.
King Ralph (1991)
King Ralph is about an American (John Goodman) who, through highly contrived means, becomes king of the United Kingdom. It’s a culture clash comedy every bit as predictable as you’d imagine, so obviously there’s a cricket scene and equally obviously King Ralph’s baseball technique triumphs over the fussy, traditional English approach. Thankfully, Peter O’Toole is on hand to save the scene by demonstrating an immaculate forward defensive shortly before King Ralph’s slogging commences. Oddly, O’Toole also had a second explaining-cricket-to-Americans scene in forgettable 2002 comedy-drama Global Heresy. He did a bit of bowling in that one before losing the ball with a lofted drive.
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Finding Neverland (2004)
This film about Peter Pan creator JM Barrie does give us the sight of Johnny Depp sitting next to a cricket bat with his pads on, but alas we do not get to see him take strike. We do get a bit of cricket though, in a scene that probably made sense until the editor got to it. The batsman is clean bowled and everyone immediately claps. At this point we cut back to the bowler who yells, “How was he?” at the umpire. The umpire shakes his head in response, apparently unconvinced by the splayed stumps. Everyone continues to clap. A woman says, “Well done”. The batsman walks off.
The Beach (2000)
“There was a range of sporting and leisure activities to suit all tastes,” says Richard, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, in the narration to explain the appeal of the secret backpacker paradise the film is about. First of all we see people joyously playing football. This is then contrasted with cricket. “Right arm, over the wicket, three balls remaining. Is there anyone that still does not understand?” If cricket is included in a Hollywood film, this is generally how it’s presented: an Englishman tries to explain cricket to Americans and Europeans, no one gets it and everyone’s unhappy.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
If there’s one thing you can count on in a historical film, it’s an inaccuracy. Master and Commander briefly depicts a cricket match played on the Galapagos Islands in 1805. The bowler bowls overarm, yet overarm bowling was illegal until 1864. An incomprehensible oversight also means that Russell Crowe – cousin of former New Zealand captains Martin Crowe and Jeff – doesn’t actually take part in the game.
First published in issue 22 of Wisden Cricket Monthly