Jason Barry reveals just how "weird" it was to work on the awful FIFA movie

Irish actor who played Dano in Love/Hate tells Team 33's Raf Diallo about working on the film

Jason Barry, actor

Actor Jason Barry arrives at the World Premiere of Titanic 3D at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Tuesday, March, 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Viewers hated it (well, the very few who saw it), critics hated it and even actors that starred in it really hated it.

I'm talking about the FIFA movie better known as United Passions which was launched at Cannes 2014, but flopped spectacularly upon its US release in June. 

While the film, which I finally got to see in full with my own unwilling eyes this week, is probably best forgotten due to the awful dialogue, airbrushing of history and the way it portrayed FIFA among other complaints, it was back in the news on Monday when Tim Roth, the man who played banned FIFA president Sepp Blatter revealed exactly what he thought of it in a Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' session.

"The film is awful (can’t say that because I haven’t seen it), I hated doing it, it was the wrong film for the right reasons," said the actor, who has previously appeared in Planet of The Apes, The Incredible Hulk and The Hateful Eight.

The interview with Jason Barry on United Passions is now available to listen to in full on the Team 33 podcast player:

"I had two kids in college so I had to make a decision and it was probably poorly judged, but once you make that decision you have to follow through. It's a hard road, being in something you don't want to do, but I'm glad I did it for my family.

"As for Fifa, I thought the movie would be much more about the corruption of this guy at first."

Corruption within FIFA is an interesting point because the wide-ranging scandal which is still having an effect on football's world governing body had just started to rage in the global media at the same time as the film flopped and made headlines for infamously taking less than $1,000 at the US Box Office on its first weekend in June.

And the reason why the film was lampooned was due to the way allegations of corruption were either minimised or completely airbrushed.

There were some rare tips of the hats to the existence of the less savoury parts of FIFA's history of course, like the presence of the investigative journalist character Edgar Willcox who appears late in the film and only has a few less than impactful scenes.

Willcox, who shared screen time with Roth's Blatter in the film, is played by Irish actor Jason Barry, who you will know as IRA man and Nidge frenemy Dano from Love/Hate and appearances in the likes of The Titanic and Circle of Life among other movies.

Like Roth, he has strong misgivings about the film which he describes as a "weird experience" and he joined me on the line from Los Angeles to share his experience of working on a truly bizarre project which was mostly funded by FIFA (reportedly up to about 90 per cent of its €25 million budget).

"It's incredibly unusual for a non-studio to put that much money into a film with no distribution or anything already in place ... no pre-sales, no sales done on Cannes," said Barry, who like Roth, has not watched the film back and is also in a position as a jobbing actor that turning down proposed film roles is often not advisable.

Also he says that at the initial stages, the direction that the finished film would take was not as clear as it would later appear, with an expectation among some of the actors that it would be more hard-hitting.

"But ultimately, it turned out to be a vanity project for FIFA"  

Given that the script was originally translated into English from French, even the finished language used in the film "felt odd", which may partly explain why the dialogue was so poor.

On his own role as an investigative journalist whose role was to dig deep into questions about Blatter and FIFA, he describes it as: "I play an investigative journalist who doesn't ask anything - which all journalists are supposed to do.

"For me, when you're a jobbing actor, it's very difficult to turn down work. I'm not in a position to say no to projects at all and I'm a big football fan and it was an opportunity to spend a couple of days in Zurich in and around FIFA, then they had a couple of days for me around Paris and then a couple of days in Rio. So, it was a very nice project for me to get in terms of life experience. But in terms of it creatively, it wasn't very good at all."    

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, right, and actor Gerard Depardieu (who appears earlier in the film as Jules Rimet) gives the thumbs up as they arrive for a screening of The Homesman at Cannes 2014. Actor Gerard Depardieu personally intervened to persuade the Cannes Film Festival to show the FIFA-funded movie United Passions that sank almost without trace at the box office after a terrible panning from critics. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

As for Blatter's role on the film project, Barry describes the 79-year-old's visits to the filmset and the way the actors were introduced to him "as if we were introduced to Prince Charles" or a US president or other royalty.   

He also became aware that the banned FIFA president had some say on aspects of the movie.

"The film definitely went to the top. I know Blatter had a certain say on script," he said, before adding that even his own lines were affected.

"I know when I was doing my ADR - when you do your ADR, you re-do your voice - the director was saying that some of my dialogue was cut because Blatter didn't like the way some of my - because my scenes are with Tim Roth who plays Blatter - and Blatter didn't like the tone of the way I was asking some of the questions. And let's be honest, in the script I'm not asking anything intense in any way shape or form. It makes Blatter out to be what Blatter thinks he is - the shining beacon of world football. It was a vanity project for FIFA." 

But although he did not get to know Roth well enough for both of them to discuss their misgivings together on set, Barry feels his fellow thespian's discomfort with the project were clear in other ways.

John Oliver lampooned the film during the summer: 

"In fairness to Tim, he did try to battle the script. He did try to make Blatter into the person that we know and love," he said, also referencing his scene with Roth where his character asks "You were the secretary-general [of FIFA], for God's sake. Either you knew, which makes you guilty, or you didn't, which makes you a bloody fool" and is then met with an oddly unexpected enigmatic smile from Roth. 

"I could see that Tim was struggling with the interpretation of who Blatter is," he added. 

"He tried to change scenes, he tried to change dialogue but I think he was fighting a losing battle on that movie."

Gerard Depardieu (Asterix & Obelix vs Caesar and Life of Pi), played Jules Rimet, who served as FIFA president from 1921 and 1954 and whose name was bequeathed to the World Cup trophy, in the film and was the man who insisted that the film be shown at Cannes according to the festival's artistic director.

"He's best friends with Blatter," said Barry of his cast-mate, " so I think it might have been Gerard Depardieu's idea to put this together which is why it happened so fast."

And to sum up the experience, Barry says the one major problem as an actor is that "you're immortalised in some piece of crap".

You can listen to the full audio interview with Jason on the Team 33 podcast on December 29th on Newstalk.com or iTunes.