Sutton director Rhys Chapman hopes his film WONDERKID can help tackle homophobia in football

PUBLISHED: 15:17 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:38 20 March 2017

'Legend' and 'Broadchurch' actor Chris Mason stars as gay professional footballer in Ely director Rhys Chapman's short film, WONDERKID, which launched online last week. The film has received backing from Adidas, the Telegraph, Sky Sports, the FA and the Premier League and its trailer has been viewed by half a million people. PHOTO: WONDERKID

'Legend' and 'Broadchurch' actor Chris Mason stars as gay professional footballer in Ely director Rhys Chapman's short film, WONDERKID, which launched online last week. The film has received backing from Adidas, the Telegraph, Sky Sports, the FA and the Premier League and its trailer has been viewed by half a million people. PHOTO: WONDERKID

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A Sutton director’s short film about homophobia in football has been launched online – and has already been viewed by tens of thousands of people.

Sir Ian McKellen and Rhys Chapman before the launch of WONDERKID in 2014. The actor provided a voice-over for one of WONDERKID's promotional videos.Sir Ian McKellen and Rhys Chapman before the launch of WONDERKID in 2014. The actor provided a voice-over for one of WONDERKID's promotional videos.

Rhys Chapman’s 30-minute film, WONDERKID, has been hailed by critics and has received backing from Sky Sports, the Telegraph, adidas, the FA, the Premier League and a host of top professional football clubs.

The film stars Broadchurch and Legend actor Chris Mason, who takes on the role of a gay lower-level footballer thrust into the limelight after securing a move to the Premier League.

The short depicts his inner turmoil as he strives to forge a successful career whilst also battling with how his sexuality is perceived in such a masculine environment.

“I love football and I wanted to make a film about a footballer, and this seemed like the one key issue facing football, so it was the perfect thing to build the character’s struggle around,” Chapman told Sky Sports News.

“The reaction has been really good. I was invited to adidas in Manchester to screen it to factory workers in their distribution centre, and they loved the film.

“They really engaged with it as an exciting piece of football drama.”

Rhys’ film-making journey began after he left East Cambridgeshire to move to London in 2010.

His idea to make a film addressing the issue of homophobia in football was soon picked up by Sir Ian McKellen, who backed Rhys’ Kickstarter campaign to find £25,000 so that the film could be shot.

After all the funding was secured, WONDERKID was launched two years later at the Raindance Film Festival and was broadcast on Sky Sports 1 last November.

The film was launched for free online on March 7.

“I don’t think we are looking at a long-term thing here,” Rhys added.

“I’d like to think that within two or three years, this will be a different sort of conversation.

“But I think the motivation for many in the game is to create an environment where players do feel safe enough to come out, and the natural progression of that safe environment will see players come out.”

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