Pen Densham To Direct Big Bill

Biopic of tennis star, Bill Tilden

Pen Densham To Direct Big Bill

by Chris Hewitt |
Published on

Tennis players are boring. They turn up, go on court, smack a few balls around, throw out a few dour quotes in the post-match press conference, and go off to shoot a new commercial for a camera/clothing range. There’s no spark, no sex, no scandal. Right?

Well, not quite. Not for Bill Tilden, anyway. The American was a legendary champion during the 1920s, winning the US Open six times in a row, and becoming the first American to win Wimbledon.

But he was also a novelist, a playwright and a bridge champion, while on the court he was renowned for his sense of fair play and gentlemanly nature. But off court, Tilden was very different, and all of his achievements paled into insignificance next to the two prison terms he served for illegal sexual acts with underage boys. Tilden never recovered from the scandal, and died penniless.

His story is documented in the biography, Big Bill: The Triumphs and the Tragedy, by Frank Deford, and today Pen Densham was brought on board to direct the big-screen adaptation, simply entitled Big Bill.

Densham hasn’t directed a movie since Moll Flanders in 1996, but he’s back back back, drawn in by the script by Gil Dennis, who scripted another successful biopic, Walk The Line.

Tennis and movies mix about as well as Andy Murray and good moods, and while this probably won’t be a box office behemoth, it might be worth keeping an eye on. Much depends on whether Densham can persuade a big star to limber up and take on Big Bill’s backhand.

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