Hollywood vs Leigh: premiere league throws up a mismatch

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The Independent Culture

The contrasting agendas of the global entertainment industry were due to be writ large within a mile of each other in London last night with the premieres of two eagerly awaited cultural events. In the august surroundings of the National Theatre, some 300 people attended the opening night of Two Thousand Years, the first foray into theatre by Mike Leigh for 12 years.

Afterwards, members of the cast, friends and agents were due to gather backstage for a celebratory drink. The media were not invited. On the other side of the Thames, amid flashing cameras on Leicester Square, a procession of celebrities ranging from Sir Tom Stoppard to Michael Owen attended the premiere of Goal!, a multimillion-pound trilogy designed by Hollywood to bring football to an American audience.

Afterwards, the glittering cast and guests were due to gather at a new West End nightspot to feast on Pata Negra ham and pumpkin risotto washed down with tequila, vodka and bourbon and be entertained with a striptease by Dita Von Teese, a performance artist who climbs naked into an outsize Martini glass. Media representatives were encouraged to congregate outside to maximise publicity.

The National Theatre confirmed yesterday that it had sold all 16,000 tickets for the 20-week run of Leigh's understated look at three generations of a north London Jewish family.

The director, who has been preparing the work under a shroud of secrecy for 18 weeks, cancelled the first two previews last week because the play was still being written. But while the play has been the subject of much attention among the chattering classes, with one national newspaper describing itself as the "real star of the show" because a copy features on the stage coffee table, its opening night was likely to be an understated affair. A spokeswoman for the National Theatre said: "I'm not awarewe're expecting many celebrities."

The same cannot be said for Goal!. The film charts the rise of a Latino teenager, played by Kuno Becker, from the back streets of Los Angeles to the status of a global superstar, via Newcastle United, with walk-on parts for David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Alan Shearer. Sequels will chart the youngster's transfer to Real Madrid and victory in the World Cup.

Critics have pointed out that the films are largely targeted at audiences in North America while maximising global appeal by featuring the planet's most popular sport.

If any doubts lingered that cinema is now often as much about merchandising as art, it should be noted that all three football teams to feature in the trilogy are sponsored by Adidas; its logo is prominent throughout.