Lev Yashin said of him, “There were only ever two world-class goalkeepers. One was myself and the other was that German boy that played in Manchester.” The Russian goalkeeper was talking about Bert Trautmann, who’s story has been made into a film set to be released on Thursday. The lead character is played by David Kross, who spoke in an interview with DFB.de editor Thomas Hackbarth.
DFB.de: Mr Kross, were you surprised that Bert Trautmann didn’t wear gloves?
David Kross: Surprised is not the right word. I was shocked! Anyway what a dramatic story, what a film! But I have to say, honestly, I’d never heard of Bert Trautmann beforehand. When filming started I became aware of just how many goalkeepers in the 50s would play without gloves.
DFB.de: In the FA Cup final in 1956, Trautmann and Manchester City were 3-1 up against Birmingham City. In the 75th minute, Trautmann collided with striker Peter Murphy and the attacker’s knee met Trautmann’s neck. The goalkeeper broke his neck and still played to the end of the game. How did you interpret this moment as an actor?
Kross: Trautmann was quite brash and faced hostility from day one at Manchester City. Later he was heralded as a hero. He went to England as a prisoner of war and ended up as a free man. At one point he was hated and called “the Kraut” and then later on he was named the 1956 Footballer of the Year. It’s just amazing really. He didn’t know at the time that he’d broken his neck, it was only confirmed later. The fact that he stayed on the pitch with his injury shows his immovable team spirit. You just weren’t allowed to sub him off. They wouldn’t have had many men like that. Bert Trautmann was a great sportsman. You can actually watch the final on Youtube and see that he still had to make a few saves after the 75th minute. A teammate had to take goal kicks for him. I watched that game a lot to try and make it look as similar as possible for the film.
DFB.de: What did you make of the footballing preparations you had to do for “The Keeper”?
Kross: As a child I played a lot of football and dreamed about being a professional - but I was never in goal. In the months leading up to shooting I had to improve my athleticism. The producers sorted me out a personal trainer. A few weeks later the intense goalkeeper training began and I had to learn everything about being between the sticks. I learned the basics like positioning and how you catch the ball. We had a very good football coach who coached us in the 50s style of football. When I first tried the old-style football boots, I realised how far football technology has come. Hard boots, crooked studs. For me there was the job of being a goalkeeper as well as being an actor. The days where I was allowed to just play football were really fun.
DFB.de: “The Keeper” is a big production. How long did it take to shoot?
Kross: Almost a year. It started in Belfast. The scenes in Jack Friar’s shop, Friar being the coach of Trautmann’s first amateur club, were shot in Munich. The Wembley shots are all completely animated. We actually shot the scene in the Rosenaustadion in Augsburg.
DFB.de: What was Bert Trautmann like as a person?
Kross: He experienced a lot of things during the war. He was on the east front for three years. He had a very big sense of justice and was ambitious, humble and straightforward. He was definitely not a fearful person. Through the love story in the film we also learn of his involvement in the war and the criminal regime. He was a part of the Hitler youth and joined willingly and was awarded with the Iron Cross. At some point during the war he must have realised that there was so much wrongdoing going on. He lost himself for a while and didn’t know where to go. He then found this new family in the land of a former enemy, fell in love, got married and became a father. At first there is silence between him and Margaret, they can’t talk to each other. The film shows the hesitation between the two and the distance between the two countries at the time. Freya Mavor is a great actress who is still only at the beginning of her career.
DFB.de: How was it working with director Marcus H. Rosenmüller?
Kross: Marcus really cheered on the extras with full force. He gave everything for this film and that’s why the atmosphere in the football scenes is so good. “The Keeper” at the end of the day is a sports film and so the football scenes have to feel authentic. A lot of fans know him for his comedy work, such as his film “Grave Decisions.”
DFB.de: “The Keeper” is a story about an enemy who becomes and idol and friend. Is that really something that football is capable of doing?
Kross: Football is an amazing thing for integration. For me Trautmann shows that team spirit can be stronger than political differences. Togetherness can do so much for people. Bert Trautmann became something of a peace ambassador in England. The sport is very powerful. When Bert Trautmann first met his new team, there were 20,000 people outside protesting, but the Man City captain, Eric Westwood, explained, “There’s no war in this dressing room.” Those are the kind of values that should still be fought for in sports today.
DFB.de: Sport films don’t generally have an easy time at the box office. How successful do you think “The Keeper” will be?
Kross: Those who go and see it will have a great time. It’s always hard to predict how well something will do. It’s often decided by the first weekend. How many go and see it or how many recommend it plays a big factor. The story is only known to a few people, but it is a true story and Marcus Rosenmüller did a really great job of telling it and putting together this German-English production. We wanted to tell this story, and it’s a big story to tell.