Westmont Magazine Alums Produce Disney Soccer Trilogy
Allen Hopkins ’95 has become a familiar face to soccer fans as a broadcaster at Fox Sports. So when Mike Jeffries got the idea for “Goal,” a big-budget soccer movie, he e-mailed Allen and asked to meet him. They discussed the trilogy about a young player from inner-city Los Angeles, and Allen started introducing him to key people in the soccer community. As the first movie took off, Allen became an associate producer for all three films. He continues his successful broadcast career; in May he joins ESPN, where he will cover the World Cup as well as major league soccer and many other sports.
Knowing that “Goal” needed someone with business experience and marketing savvy, Allen enlisted a former college roommate, Danny Stepper ’94, to join the project. A successful executive with Coca-Cola, Danny initially had no interest in producing films. He’d worked for nine years to earn 14 promotions and progress from stocking shelves to managing a $300 million business unit. His jobs had included brand manager and vice president for sales and marketing. Coke even paid for him to get an M.B.A. at Pepperdine University.
In 2003, Executive Producer Lawrence Bender invited Danny to Paris for a meeting with FIFA, the governing body of world soccer. During this trip, FIFA agreed to endorse the films and completed the funding for the $100 million project. Danny decided to leave Coca-Cola.
“I made a big career and life change,” he says. “But I’ve found my calling as a film producer. The work is much more entrepreneurial, and I thrive in that environment.” For the last three years, he has traveled extensively, living in London and Madrid and using the Spanish he learned during a semester abroad.
The first Disney movie, “Goal! The Dream Begins,” opens in the United States May 12; it has already been released in more than 50 countries. The story follows a young Mexican-American who grows up in a poor Los Angeles neighborhood. A scout discovers his natural talent and recruits him to play for Newcastle United, a professional team in Great Britain. The film explores his journey into a completely foreign world. The second installment, which arrives in theaters later this year, focuses on his professional career and his move to the most storied soccer franchise in the world, Real Madrid. The trilogy concludes with the hero playing on the world’s biggest stage: the FIFA World Cup. Danny and Allen will make the last film at the World Cup this summer in Germany. All three movies feature real teams and famous players.
Throughout the process, Allen and Danny have worked with two alumni. Mark Zoradi ’76 is the president of Buena Vista International, Disney’s international arm, which is distributing the movies worldwide. Ron Shelton ’67 is a writer and director responsible for films such as “Bull Durham,” “Blaze,” and “Tin Cup.” Both men have been invaluable mentors to the younger alumni. So has Mike Guiliano, a former professor and women’s soccer coach at Westmont, who wrote the opening scene for “Goal.”
Allen and Danny hope to continue producing movies and working together. “Film is an effective way to reach people,” Danny says. “But there are so many bad movies. We want to make films that matter.”