Mark Rylance on his new film The Phantom of the Open - "It has a wider reach than just people who are into golf"

Virgin Radio

17 Mar 2022, 11:44

Credit: Getty

Credit: Getty

Award-winning actor Mark Rylance joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about starring in the brand new feelgood comedy-drama The Phantom of the Open, which is out in cinemas tomorrow.

The film follows the unbelievable true story of shipyard worker, Maurice Flitcroft, from Barrow-in-Furness who, despite not being a golfer, entered the 1976 British Open and shot the worst round of golf in Open history, becoming a folk hero in the process. Mark told Chris: “He was a bit of a loner and when he was made redundant he decided to take up golf. They’d just got a colour television recently and he was absolutely fascinated by the colour images of golf tournaments. But he couldn’t get into a golf course, so he just practised on school playgrounds and on the beaches. 

“And then he thought, in a rather innocent way, maybe I’ll apply for the British Open. And through a kind of devine administrative error, something we all hope for in our lives, he was admitted to the British Open and he proceeded to score the worst score that’s ever been chalked up, 126, over the 18 holes I think it was.” 

In the film, director Craig Roberts avoids laughing at Maurice in a mean-spirited way but rather approaches the absurdity of the story with optimism. Mark said: “Despite everyone’s amusement and declarations that he was the worst golfer in the world, [Maurice] didn’t see it that way at all. And that’s the wonderful thing about him, he doesn’t let other people define him, he’s absolutely solid about what his view of himself is, and he’s not going to be deterred from it.” 

The golfing authorities, however, did not quite see the joyous side of Maurice’s story. Mark explained: “They were extremely embarrassed by this administrative error, and by Maurice, and so they banned him, over a technicality, from playing on any golf course in the nation. But he gets around that, and that’s another wonderful aspect of it; he’s defiant against authority, but in the most hilarious and creative way.”

The revered actor continued: “I think it’s a shame that people sometimes think, ‘Oh, you can only call yourself an actor if you’re a professional… or a golfer if you’re a professional… tennis player...'. It’s not true, the amateur world of playing these things for love, those people are as much actors or golfers or tennis players. It shouldn’t be a dividing rule. Anyone who does anything can call themselves a person who does that thing.”

Mark, who plays opposite Sally Hawkins and Rhys Ifans, admitted that his golfing skills were just about “up to scratch for this part!” He told Chris: “I sent balls flying all over the place. I never hit a camera, which happens in the film, but there was one occasion when I hit a ball, much to my amazement, and landed on the green a few yards from the hole!”

The actor advised listeners that the film won’t just appeal to fans of the sport. “I think it has a wider reach than just people who are into golf,” he said. “It’s really about a family with an eccentric father. Golf is a gift to comedy isn’t it? It’s surprising there haven’t been more golf comedies, because a lot of people take it very, very seriously. It’s just a bit of metal and a ball and a hole in the ground.”

He added: “I don’t like watching my own films, generally. I get caught up with my own self-criticism, but this one really, I just forgot about all that. Partly because all of the other people were so wonderful, but it’s very funny, and there’s a kind of endurance that’s moving, isn’t there?”

Phantom of The Open is released in cinemas nationwide from this Friday, 18th March.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.