Merseyside football legend Dixie Dean - who went on to become a Chester pub owner - is to be immortalised on the big screen in a new movie.
Award-winning producers Sara Jandrain and Orian Williams have joined forces with director Simon Aboud, Paul McCartney’s son-in-law, to announce an originally scripted feature film which highlights the legendary centre-forward’s battle with mental health issues following his retirement from football.
It is unclear at the moment whether the film will cover the period he ran the Dublin Packet pub in Chester city centre.
Planet of the Apes, War Horse and Fantastic Four star Toby Kebbell is in line to play the iconic lead role, reports our sister publication the Liverpool ECHO .
Dean’s daughter, Barbara, has been pivotal in the making of the movie.
Producer Jandrain said: “Barbara’s bravery in coming forward to tell her and her dad’s courageous, emotive and important story is incredibly moving.
“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 and audiences far and wide will find a place in their hearts for it, as myself and our fantastic growing team already have.”
Producer Orian Williams, whose credits include the Joy Division biopic Control, England Is Mine, Shadow of the Vampire and Big Sur, added: “Barbara is opening the door a little bit to say: ‘Look inside. Look what was really going on.’ It’s going to touch a lot of people.
“The world is going to be even more in love with Dixie Dean when they see this movie. His statue at Everton’s Goodison Park will be synonymous with something far greater than what I think it was initially.”
Simon Aboud, who was born around the corner from Dixie Dean in Birkenhead and is married to Mary McCartney, is in line to direct.
His previous films include Comes A Bright Day and This Beautiful Fantastic and he said: “It is an incredible story that feels utterly modern. A story that centres 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.”
Dixie’s daughter Barbara and Dixie’s granddaughter Melanie fully support the biopic.
Barbara Dean, Dixie’s daughter, explained her motivation behind the decision to finally reveal an untold part of her father’s life.
“I think the time is right to share my story with the world now. The Royal Family – people – are finally talking about mental health,” she said.
“There was no help for me as there was such stigma back then, but I hope this film can help others.
“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.”
Melanie Prentice, Dixie’s granddaughter revealed her delight the film is being made. “Sara Jandrain has foresight and determination. My grandfather was an iconic man. I am just so proud the real story of his life and what he had to go through and take the family through will finally be told.
“My grandfather was surrounded by strong women who rebuilt the man that I knew as my grandad. Mental health was brushed under the carpet back then. Things have got better, but there is still a stigma about it and a long way to go.”
Toby Kebbell, who is earmarked to play the lead role, was a popular choice to play the man who still holds the record for goals scored in a single season in English football.
Both Barbara and Melanie said that the actor who most recently starred in Kong: Skull Island was the perfect fit to play the lead role.
“Toby got the thumbs up the minute he walked through our door. He has a likeness to Dixie, we instantly saw a family resemblance,” they said.
“He also told us he was from Nottingham, where Dixie ended his league playing career, and was thrilled to be given the opportunity to play the role.
“Everyone’s links in the film have the same morals and values we do and that is why it has come together.”
Everton shareholder Lord John Grantchester said: “I know my grandfather, Sir John Moores, would be proud to see Dixie recognised throughout the world of football for his unique achievements in Everton’s colours.
“Sir John was always pleased to have been able to help this special man in later life. It is great that we will be able to know Dixie through this film and to learn from his story.”
Private investor, Tim Storer, stated: “It is a big deal getting a project like this off the ground and I was really pleased to get in there at the very beginning and help light that match.”
Arguably British football’s greatest ever goalscorer Dixie is best remembered for scoring 60 goals in a single season in 1928, a record that still stands today.
This feat is even more remarkable, given that a year earlier he was told he would never play football again, after suffering a fractured skull, broken jaw and knee injury in a motorcycle accident.
The screenplay is written by award winner and critically acclaimed theatre director Matt Aston (Touched, Diary Of A Football Nobody; Bomber’s Moon) and former art lecturer and blog writer, John McEvoy.