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An iconic British film that hasn’t aged a day is somehow 20 years old (Picture: Rex)
Bend It Like Beckham remains one of British cinema’s most enduring films of recent years, and boasts a cast to match including Keira Knightley, Parminder Nagra, Archie Panjabi and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Director and writer Gurinder Chadha had experienced success with 2004’s Bhaji on the Beach, and would go on to direct Aishwarya Rai in Bride and Prejudice, High Bonneville and Gillian Anderson in Viceroy’s House and launch lavish TV period drama Beecham House in 2019.
However, none of those have quite captured the zeitgeist, then and now (there was even a stage musical!), like Bend It Like Beckham.
So what became of its stars, 20 years later?
Nagra headed stateside like Jess (Picture: Rex)
As central character Jesminder ‘Jess’ Bhamra, Nagra played the daughter of British Indian Sikhs living in Hounslow who are reluctant to let her pursue her passion for football, in part due to fear of racism.
Playing behind their backs, Jess gets the chance to make friends, enjoy the possibility of a relationship and look at pursuing football professionally.
After wowing in the film, Nagra, now 46, followed in the footsteps of her character and headed to the US, where she landed a starring role in hit TV show ER, where she stayed for six years as Dr Neela Rasgotra until 2009.
She also appeared opposite Anne Hathaway in Ella Enchanted in 2004.
Since then, Nagra has carved out a voice acting career with projects like Batman: Gotham Knight and Postman Pat: The Movie, as well as continuing to star in major US TV shows like Alcatraz, The Blacklist, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, 13 Reasons Why and a guest spot on Elementary.
Nagra will appear in the lead role of ITV police drama DI Ray later this year.
Knightley was catapulted to global stardom (Picture: Rex)
Knightley famously scored her big break with Bend It Like Beckham, having previously appeared in a small role as Padmé Amidala’s handmaid in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and helmed Disney movie The Princess of Thieves.
As Jules, Knightley was a best friend to Jess as well as a possible love rival, whose interfering mother Paula (Juliet Stevenson) also struggled to understand her daughter’s interest in football.
Since this film, the now 37-year-old actress’s career has gone stratospheric, helped by her casting in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, opposite Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom.
Love Actually, King Arthur, more Pirates movies, Atonement, The Duchess and Never Let Me Go followed, as well as Oscar nominations for her turns in Joe Wright’s 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation and 2014’s The Imitation Game.
She has also trod the boards in the West End and on Broadway with productions of The Misanthrope, The Children’s Hour and Thérèse Raquin.
Recent films include Misbehaviour and back comedy apocalyptic Christmas film Silent Night, and she is set to appear in drama The Boston Strangler.
Knightley married Klaxons musician James Righton in 2012, with whom she shares two daughters. She was made OBE in 2018.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Meyers did major movies and appeared as Henry VIII in The Tudors (Picture: Rex)
Jonathan Rhys Meyers was the object of many girls’ fantasies as sympathetic football coach Joe, who finds himself falling to Jess even as he is tough on her, pushing her to fulfil the dreams he missed out on due to injury.
Meyers had been acting since 1994 and scored his first major role in 1998’s Velvet Goldmine opposite Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette and Christian Bale.
However, Bend It Like Beckham still helped his career with its upwards trajectory to major blockbusters including Vanity Fair with Reese Witherspoon, historic epic Alexander and Mission: Impossible III.
He also played Elvis Presley in a 2005 mini-series, which saw him nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
Meyers, now 44, has struggled with alcoholism since his representative confirmed his addiction in 2007, which has involved brushes with the law in the US and Ireland, but has maintained a solid acting output regardless.
He had one of his biggest successes with The Tudors, in which he played a rather glamorous version of King Henry VIII from 2007 to 2010, scoring him another Golden Globe nod.
More recently he has starred in several independent US films and appeared as Heahmund in Vikings.
Meyers married Mara Lane in 2016, and has a five-year-old son, Wolf.
Lewis is back with All Saints and songwriting (Picture: Rex)
Did you remember this one? Lewis appeared as Jules and Jess’s teammate Marlena ‘Mel’ Goines in Bend It Like Beckham.
Her short-lived acting career began as she dipped her toe into other waters following the break-up of her hugely successful group All Saints in 2001.
Lewis and Melanie Blatt founded All Saints in 1993, before being joined by sisters Natalie and Nicole Appleton later on, and achieving their first major success with the Brit award-winning single Never Ever.
The group achieved five number one singles all in, including Pure Shores, many of which Lewis co-wrote. She won an Ivor Novello award for best songwriting in 2001.
Following Bend It Like Beckham, she embarked upon a solo career with her debut album Open, as well as featuring on the Band Aid 20 re-recording of Do They Know It’s Christmas. She also acted in Hideous Man.
Lewis has been busy with All Saints again in recent years, following a 2006 reunion that produced number three single Rock Steady, and a more permanent regrouping in 2014.
Alongside All Saints tours, she has undertaken more songwriting with the likes of Westlife, Stooshe’s earworm Black Heart and Idris Elba for his Netflix series Turn It Up Charlie.
Lewis has been married to Christian ‘Storm’ Horsfall since 2004, with whom she shares a son and daughter.
Kher is still one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, who juggles Hollywood films too (Picture: Rex)
Appearing as Jess’s firm but ultimately fair cricket-loving dad, Mohaan Singh Bhamra, Kher is a prolific actor who has appeared in over 500 films, predominantly in Hindi.
Making his acting debut in Bollywood in 1984, Kher, 67, has now won 12 Filmfare Awards out of a whopping 20 nominations, at India’s equivalent to the Oscars.
Kher was also nominated for a Bafta for his performance in the 2018 BBC TV sitcom The Boy With The Topknot.
The actor married his actress-turned-politician wife Kirron Kher in 1985.
The acclaimed stage actress has continued to enjoy a successful career (Picture: Rex)
Stevenson made a splash as glamorous mum Paula to Knightley’s tomboy daughter Jules, who is baffled by the differences between herself and her daughter and famously rather dramatically jumps to the wrong conclusion about the nature of Jess and Jules’s relationship.
A Rada-trained actress, Stevenson was already a force to be reckoned with ahead of Bend It Like Beckham, with RSC performances under her belt and the Olivier award for best actress in 1992.
Her early film roles included Truly, Madly, Deeply opposite Alan Rickman and Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as a huge list of TV roles after her debut in 1980.
Stevenson, now 65, has since appeared in Mona Lisa Smile, Being Julia, Diana and The Letters, as the late Mother Theresa.
TV show appearances include The Hour with Ben Whishaw and Dominic West, The Village, BBC’s Atlantis, The Long Call and Death in Paradise.
Awarded with a CBE in 1999, the actress’s stage roles have seen her nominated for an Olivier six times in total, as well as four Bafta nominations for her TV and film work.
She lives with her long-term partner, anthropologist Hugh Brody, and has a daughter and a son, having lost her step-son, who died at the age of 37 in November 2020.
Panjabi has been in loads of TV hits, including The Good Wife and Snowpiercer (Picture: Rex)
It’s hard to forget Pinky’s ‘Laters!’ catchphrase, even many years after, with Panjabi proving a scene-stealer as Jess’s much girlier older sister.
About to get married, her wedding plays out as the backdrop to some of the film’s climactic scenes.
As with co-star Nagra, 49-year-old Panjabi is someone who also enjoyed major success in the US following Bend It Like Beckham.
Coming onto the film off the back of 1999 comedy East is East, she appeared in the TV adaptation of Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth in 2002 as well, with James McAvoy, Naomie Harris and Om Puri.
She also appeared in the hit show Life On Mars and Silent Witness while having filmed roles in major Hollywood movies like The Constant Gardner, A Good Year with Russell Crowe and A Mighty Heart opposite Angelina Jolie.
In 2009, Panjabi appeared in US legal drama The Good Wife with Julianna Margulies, where she remained for six seasons in the popular show as mysterious personal investigator Kalinda Sharma.
She moved on to Blind Spot afterwards, as well as appearing in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I Know This Much Is True and HBO comedy Run with Domhnall Gleeson.
Her major British dramas have included The Fall with Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson, as well as Power Monkeys and Still Open All Hours.
Panjabi can currently be seen in season three of Snowpiercer and as investigator Kendra Malley on missing plane thriller Suspense.
The beating heart of the film, footie legend Beckham now has a married son! (Picture: Rex)
Okay, so Beckham never actually made an appearance in the film, save for archive footage, but it was imbued with his spirit and skill, as shown by the focus on Jess’s goal to, indeed, bend it like Beckham (which she did).
In 2002 when it came out, Beckham was still at Manchester United, where he would make 265 appearances in total, and current captain of the England team.
He had been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year the previous year for his efforts in helping the national side qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where England would ultimately be knocked out in the quarter-finals.
Beckham went on to play for Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, stepping down as England captain in 2006.
Now 46, he is known as businessman with his own training academy, as well as ownership of Inter Miami FC and part ownership of non-league club Salford City, where he is also a director.
On April 9 2022, his oldest son Brooklyn, 23 – one of four children he shares with former Spice Girl and designer wife Victoria – married US actress fiancée Nicola Peltz in extravagant style at her billionaire parents’ beachfront property.