Stars Gear Up For World Cup Watching As Tournament Opens In South Africa

Even though the U.S. soccer team is in the World Cup, the games still enjoy only a fraction of the popularity of that other big football event — American football, that is — the Super Bowl.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t hard to find celebs interested in Saturday’s big game against England on the star-studded red carpet at Thursday night’s American Film Institute tribute to director Mike Nichols.

“I’m excited,” said Eric Idle. “I have my money — although I am English, you know, I have to suffer with England — my money is on America to beat them on Saturday,” Idle continued. “I think.. a good bet, a good bet. You can get decent odds in England on this, because the English are very confident. But the Americans are a very good team, very hard to beat. So, it’ll probably end up a tie, I would think. Or what we call, ‘a draw.”’

American actor Michael Douglas, last year’s AFI honoree, noted, “I am a soccer fan, but the U.S.-England is going to be incredible. I’m only going to be able to catch half of it. I’ve got to go somewhere.”

Douglas has to hop a plane for New York to attend another big weekend competition: Sunday’s Broadway honors, the Tony Awards, where wife Catherine Zeta-Jones is a nominee for “A Little Night Music.”

“It’s Radio City Music Hall,” Douglas said. “She’s got to sing ‘Send in the Clowns.’ So, keep our fingers crossed.”

English actress Helen Mirren and American director Taylor Hackford joked about marital strife caused by their rooting for respective homelands’ World Cup competitors.

“There is,” said Hackford. “There is for sure. I’m a major football fan and I hope we beat the U.K. I love Liverpool. That’s my major team, you see. But I still have to root for my own country, don’t I?”

“Yes, you do,” injected Mirren, laughing. “It’ll be a painful day for one of us.”

English actress-writer Emma Thompson was quick to answer “No!” when asked if she’d be watching Saturday. But, when pressed, she admitted, “Well, I suppose I’ll get into it after a while. I’m so uninterested in football, I’m afraid.”

“Heartbreaking,” joked a reporter.

“I know,” Thompson replied, smiling. “Well, I’m so sorry. You’ll get over it, though.”

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