Bend It like Beckham to become a West End musical

The 2002 football film is the latest big-screen hit to transfer to stage

Bend It like Beckham, the East meets West football film that helped catapult Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra to stardom, is to transfer to the stage.

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The script has been finalised and the project will be in the hands of prolific West End producer Sonia Friedman, whose credits include Legally Blonde the Musical and La Cage Aux Folles.

Keira Knightley co-starred in the 2002 film that tells the story of Jess, a young Sikh girl (played by Parminder Nagra), who rebels against her traditional upbringing and secretly pursues her passion for football. Jess’s life is turned upside down when her talent is spotted by a local coach and he invites her to play for the Hounslow Harriers.

The movie broke box-office records at the time and became the highest-grossing British financed, British distributed film ever. It went on to top the charts in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and South Africa.

Film-maker Gurinder Chadha, who co-wrote and directed Bend It like Beckham, is reported to be very excited about taking it onto the stage and is now deciding on the best person to write the score.

Turning movies into musicals is a gamble that can pay sizeable dividends. Global musical hit Billy Elliot opened in London in 2005 and is still running with booking dates recently extended to December 2012. Shrek, which premiered in Seattle before moving to Broadway, has played to audiences around the world including Israel, Spain, France and the UK.

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The only slight disappointment for those who loved Bend It like Beckham in cinemas is that Keira Knightley will not be appearing. “There are no plans for Keira to reprise the role, lovely though it sounds,” said an spokesperson for the 26-year-old British actress.