On January 25th 1995,
France football captain, Eric Cantona, was involved in an incident
with a foul-mouthed Crystal Palace fan during a United
away game at Selhurst Park in London. His infamous kung-fu kick;
a foot-first lunge over the advertising hoardings and firmly onto
the thug's chest, earned him an 8 month ban as well as a place
in footballing history.
The incident resulted
in a court case in March 1995, during which he was initially sentenced
to 2 weeks in prison (this was later converted to community service).
The thug, Matthew Simmons, also received a slightly shorter prison
sentence (which he served).
In the Spring of
1995, during his lengthy ban from football, Eric returned to the
Gers region in South West France, to fulfill a life-long ambition
of acting. His brief appearance as Lionel, a two-timing, rugby-playing
boyfriend of a girl whose father had quit the rat race and bought
a duck farm received suprisingly rave reviews. The comedy film
was called, appropriately, 'Le
Bonheur est dans le Pre'
In The Field'
in America). It also starred Eric's brother Joel Cantona,
who also played football (for Stockport
his ban, Eric was still Nike's No.1 World sports star, with his
adverts broadcast Worldwide and given higher priority than those
featuring the likes of Ronaldo and Michael Jordan (this even continued
after he retired!). 'Le
included some blatant endorsements for the product.
Whilst the film was
a massive box-office success in France and Switzerland, the English
Cantona-hungry cinema-goers were not given the opportunity until
the film was released on video some time later.
Having served his
ban, Eric returned to football in October 1995. With Cantona-frenzy
being at an all time high in Europe and Asia, Eric won the Footballer
Of The Year award and scored the winning goal in the last minute
of the FA Cup Final against Liverpool to help United
become the first team ever to win the Double Double.
Having helping add
the 1997 Premiership trophy to United's
bulging trophy cabinet, Eric Cantona suddenly announced his retirement
from football at the young age of 31. everybody was stunned however
Eric was focused on making a new life for himself, acting and
Eric Cantona's first
major film, 'A
Question Of Honour', premiered
in Paris in September 1997. Starring alongside his brother, Joel,
and Jake LaMotta (the original Raging Bull), Eric played a scary
boxing promoter in the comedy, which also includeed a soundtrack
by Joe Strummer, Pablo Cook and Bez.
By the end of 1997,
Eric was working with massive United
and Angus Deayton, on his first blockbuster, 'Elizabeth'.
which also starred Sir Richard Attenborough, Joesph Fiennes, Cate
Blanchett, Sir John Gielgud and Kathy Burke, won one Oscar and
was also nominated for 6 others including Best Picture. Eric again
recieved high praise for his portrayal of French Ambassador, Monsieur
de Foix, the first time he had actually played an English-speaking
Eric again played
a boxer in his next movie, 'Mookie',
which was filmed in Mexico. The delightful film saw Eric playing
the lead role as a boxer who meets a monk and his talking chimpanzee
on the run from scientists. Although it has never been released
in the UK, 'Mookie',
which was based on the Herve Fen book, is a fantastic film and
Eric's performance as Capella is certainly worth a look.
The next movie project
Eric was to take part in was entitled 'Les
Enfants du Marais' (or 'Children Of The Marshland')
and saw him return to France where he starred, yet again as a
boxer, alongside the likes of Jacques Villeret, Jacques Gamblin
and Michel Serrault. The film was slated despite its great cast
and Eric's fine portrayal of Jo Sardi, an evil boxer.
Whatever Eric Cantona
decides to do next, you can expect him to approach it with a passion
that matched his footballing days. Maybe he will eventually fulfill
his dream of becoming a film director or even the director of
football at Manchester