The two minute trailer for new documentary Gascoigne couldn’t fail to give you goosebumps, whether you’re a football fan or not. For one of the first times, Paul Gascoigne has looked back on his footballing career and in some ways it’s more poignant to hear him talk about his success than the decades of alcohol abuse and tabloid drama which followed.
One of the producers, Nick Taussig, tells me that the film was all the former Spurs and England star’s idea. “Jane Preston [the director] had made this film for ITV, Being Paul Gascoigne, and Paul had found that experience quite frustrating because I think that focused on his family dysfunctions and his drinking and his constant rehabilitation. He said to Jane at the end, ‘I’d love to do something about my career as a footballer’.
“In the last ten years since he retired he’s become tabloid fodder for various reasons, and we thought we could do something here which is more about him and looking at him in a slightly more objective, less salacious way. What emerged quite quickly was that Paul had really wanted to do something like this, where he’s got to now, he’s quite dependent on the tabloids to make a living, and he wanted there to be a more serious portrait of his playing career.”
While there were many highs, the deep lows also started during his professional career which saw him play for Tottenham Hotspur, Rangers and England. Getting Gascoigne to sit down and churn through all that happened to him during this period was never going to be easy. “It was almost a kind of psychotherapy; it was a very intense interview. It was almost like going to rehab in a way, the amount we were talking about things,” Tausig says.
It wasn’t just Gascoigne’s memories but those of his team mate Gary Lineker, who says in the film that Gazza’s weaknesses also added to his success: “Part of his genius, part of his magnificence is the fact that he is still vulnerable. Without that vulnerable side I don't think that he would have been the player that he was.”
Manchester United player Wayne Rooney, whose talent has been compared to that of Gascoigne’s, says, “You don't shed tears on the football pitch if you don't care about playing for your country. I would say he the most exciting English player I have seen and certainly the best.”
Meanwhile Chelsea captain Jose Mourinho says that Gazza was “The Special One”, rather than he. “The fact that Jose referred to Paul as the Special One really meant so much to him. He was touched by all the comments about him. He’s so vulnerable and so fragile but that’s what makes him a wonderful footballer. Therein lies the story,” says Taussig.
Gascoigne, now 48, has famously battled an alcohol addiction for almost twenty years (he was first admitted to The Priory in 1998, and his friend Chris Evans paid for his most recent rehab stint in Arizona in 2013), and there were fears amongst the team that this documentary may never be finished. “Last year there was a point when we felt he might die. He had said to Jane I want to make this film before I die, he wanted a film that was about his career – and we thought a couple of times we might not be able to do it.”
But, luckily Gascoigne was going through a better period when the time came to film. Says Taussig, “He’s honest about his drinking, and he has good days and bad days. He will maybe drink one day in every ten, so most of the time he’s sober but then he’ll have a blip and those blips come as an emotional response to something that he can’t deal with. But he’s in a good space at the moment and this experience has undoubtedly helped him in many ways.”
Gascoigne is screened live across cinemas nationwide for one night only on 8th June, followed by a Q&A with Paul Gascoigne. The DVD/Blu-ray and digital download release is on 15th June.Reuse content