The rebel, the showman, the underdog: Diego Maradona, as seen through eyes of actors that play him

Nicolás Goldschmidt, Nazareno Casero and Juan Palomino, who play Diego Maradona in Amazon Prime’s Maradona: Blessed Dream, talk about the many versions of the deceased Argentine football legend

Amit Kamath October 30, 2021 19:39:05 IST
The rebel, the showman, the underdog: Diego Maradona, as seen through eyes of actors that play him

Children walk past a mural depicting the late Diego Maradona in La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina on Friday. AP Photo

Across the screen, sit three facsimiles of Diego Maradona. Ask them what fascinated them about the Argentine demigod, and, fittingly, each one of them talks about a different version of Maradona.

Nicolás Goldschmidt’s preferred version of Maradona is that of a boy from nowhere who became an inspiration for the world. Nazareno Casero gushes about Maradona, the artist. Juan Palomino talks of Maradona, the rebel.

Goldschmidt, Casero and Palomino play the legendary footballer, who passed away last year, in Maradona: Blessed Dream, a 10-part biopic series which premiered on Amazon Prime on Friday, a day before his birth anniversary.

On the pitch, Maradona was known for his control over the football. Off it, it was the lack of control that made headlines.

While never glossing over his reality as a party fiend, attracted to every trapping that accompanies fame, the biopic attempts to show Maradona’s other versions.

“Maradona lived many lives,” says Casero. “I understood the magic of Maradona through my research. He was so charismatic, so inspiring that I saw him as a showman, as an artist, as a creator who brought us joy. In a way, that’s how I started to relate to him and history. He will be part of me because of that.”

“Maradona’s story is that of a dream achieved. He’s the poor kid, who against all odds, got to the top. He made it! But he never forgot his roots. He always remembered where he came from. This idea, of achieving the impossible, is something we all want. It’s something that’s part of the Argentine identity. It’s part of us,” says Goldschmidt, who plays the teenaged Maradona, who first broke into Argentine consciousness with Argentinos Juniors and then with Boca Juniors.

Palomino, who plays the oldest version of Maradona, the man struggling with the onslaught of addiction and age-related health complications adds: “Maradona, because of what he did at Barcelona, and then at Napoli and then at Mexico ’86, became a rebel. He was the one who said no to power, whoever it was. That’s why he became a part of not just Argentine identity but also Latin American identity. He, in a way, showed the possibility for the powerless to achieve that dream.”

Being Maradona

Portraying Maradona on screen was both easy and difficult. Easy, because of the endless hours of on-field footage and infinite reams of newsprint dedicated to everything Maradona did. But given how revered Maradona is in Argentina and many parts of the world, playing a man with as many complexities as him made the role difficult, particularly since Goldschmidt, Casero and Palomino are all Argentinians.

Sure enough, according a Reuters report, despite Maradona approving the script before passing away, his former wife Claudia Villafane approached the court to have scenes removed from the show.

“Having all the material easily available, it enabled us get a gist of his behaviour, his body language, his gestures, voice and the way he walks. At the same time, we didn’t fall into the trap of imitation,” says Goldschmidt. “All three of us would take care of each other and reinforce that we had to be Maradona, not imitate Maradona. We wanted to show Maradona in a humane way. We wanted to show the things the world would not see… his private moments.”

Casero adds: “We wanted to tell the episodes from Maradona’s life, but not just the well-known episodes. We wanted to tell people what it was like when he was on his own. When he was sad or going through pain. There was a lot of material for us to go through, but what interested us was the silence and the loneliness.

“We chose to show these many lives of Maradona that he lived in one life. If we had tried to choose everything, it would be an endless series. Maradona is an infinite being. We wanted to show the many Maradonas that live in each of us.”

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