David Beckham wears a gray shirt and pants and shows off his tattoo sleeve against a gray wall.

Beckham in Bloom

David Beckham looks back on decades in the spotlight in Fisher Stevens’s docuseries BECKHAM.

Photography by Collier Schorr
Styling by Alister Mackie
1 May 20249 min read

Young David Beckham only had one goal: to play professional soccer, or football as it’s called everywhere but the United States. His childhood in East London was devoted to the game — Beckham’s father, Ted, was an unwavering source of support and tough love, but the young player’s single-mindedness came from within. “My dad didn’t have to say to me, ‘Oh, don’t go out with your friends tonight,’ because I knew what was right and what was wrong,” the international sports star says now. “I didn’t have many friends growing up because I was more focused on football than I was on anything else. That’s the way it’s always been.”

Beckham has had occasion lately to reflect on his tremendous past, having recently completed the four-part documentary series BECKHAM. Directed by actor and Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Fisher Stevens (The Cove, Before the Flood), the docuseries traces Beckham’s meteoric rise to fame and his much-photographed relationship with wife Victoria, the designer and fashion icon who enjoyed her own stratospheric success spreading girl power as Posh Spice with her iconic pop group, the Spice Girls.

David Beckham wears a suit and walks through a pile of flowers in a gray-walled room.

Suit by Tom Ford, shirt and tie by Dior

Yet BECKHAM travels well beyond the glamour to offer an unflinching examination of the most turbulent moments in the athlete’s life, chronicling the tumult that he and Victoria weathered together, raising children amid frenzied media attention and numerous career transitions. Before retiring from soccer, Beckham played for 11 years for Manchester United and was named captain of England’s World Cup team in 2000. He then moved on to Real Madrid and, notably, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to play for the L.A. Galaxy, transforming Major League Soccer. Stints at AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain followed, and in 2018, he claimed a new place for himself in the sport, founding Inter Miami CF. Beckham co-owns the football club, famed for the players’ flamingo pink jerseys and its recent acquisition of Argentine star Lionel Messi.

Amid candid interviews with the footballer’s parents, friends, teammates, and managers, BECKHAM’s most captivating moments are those that witness David and Victoria spending time together at their idyllic rural home — where the 49-year-old father of four enjoys keeping bees and cooking for the family. Those scenes of daily domestic bliss serve to humanize two of the most famous people on the planet, offering a glimpse into the habits and hobbies of one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

The man at the heart of it all admits, however, that sharing his memories and feelings, and opening up about his life story, wasn’t always easy. But if there’s one thing we all know about David Beckham, it’s that he’s never shied away from a challenge — the more difficult the better. 

“When I’m challenged, I come out fighting,” he tells Queue

An edited version of the conversation follows.

David Beckham wears all gray and stands next to a fan in a gray-walled room.

Shirt and trousers by Bottega Veneta at Mr Porter

Krista Smith: So many people have responded to this docuseries, whether they grew up watching you play, whether they were a Man United fan, whether they only knew your name, or only knew your wife. What’s that experience been like, seeing the reception BECKHAM is receiving? 

David Beckham: I wanted to make a documentary like we made because it’s more about the life and the journey and the ups and downs and struggles than just the football — even though the football was a gentle reminder that I did pretty well, I think. Especially in the U.S., people know me and have known me for playing the game, for playing in L.A., and for owning Miami, but I don’t think 95% of the people that have seen me play over the years or know who I am knew the journey of it and the struggles and the difficult parts.

Well, let’s talk about the difficult parts, specifically the red card event when you were ejected from the match between England and Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, which England then lost. How did you live through what came after — the vitriol, the violence, the abuse, the death threats?

DB: It ended up going on for about two-and-a-half, three years. Every stadium that I’d go into, there was abuse, death threats, threats to my family not just on the field but off the field, to my parents, to my grandparents. It went on for a long, long time. [The documentary] was the first time I’ve really talked about it in detail. It was the first time that I’ve had to sit there and look at the footage because a lot of the archive stuff I’d never seen; I’d never seen or read some of the things that were said about me. I was lucky. I had this protective bubble at Manchester United that kind of shielded me from it. That, without a doubt, was one of the toughest moments to talk about on camera. That, combined with leaving Manchester United.

I’m not a very good talker. I always kind of just put it in a box and get on with it because that’s my upbringing. I grew up in the East End of London with a father who was very strict with me, but we had a lot of love in the family. If I hadn’t had a father like I had, there’s no way I would’ve got[ten] through moments like that in ’98. He made me resilient. But I think the one thing that the red card did, and it’s quite sad, [is] it made me colder as a person. I kind of shut down. I was brought up that if I was making a fuss when I was a young kid or crying, my dad would just turn to me and say, “Pick yourself up, get on with it, get out there, and do the same again.”

David Beckham wears a black jacket and looks off into the distance.

Leather coat by Alexander McQueen (archival, stylist's own) and ribbed tank top by Two Steeples

Do you think you would have become the man you are today without that?

DB: No, I don’t. I grew up with many kids who could have gone on to have great careers, but firstly, they didn’t have the support from home, from their parents. And secondly, my dedication was always to the game. I was always dedicated to staying in in the evenings, sleeping well before a game. Even when I was eight years old, I knew what I had to do to perform at the highest [level] that I could.

We hear from some of your closest friends in the series. Gary Neville was your roommate when you were teenagers and you guys are still so close. Same thing with David Gardner. What is it about those friendships that have survived the test of time? 

DB: I met Gary when I first went up to Manchester when I was 12 years old. When I then moved to Manchester when I was 15, Gary became one of my closest friends. I admired Gary for his dedication and the things that he used to do as a youth team player. We just connected. Then we went through so much together. He was the right-back in the team. I was the right-winger so we always had that connection. He was my best man at my wedding. I don’t have a huge amount of friends, but I have really good friends that stick by me. I’m there for Gary, and he’s there for me. It’s the same with Dave. I’ve known Dave since I was 15 years old; he runs my business with me. We’ve been through a lot together. We know each other inside and out. I don’t like having people around me who always give me the good news or tell me I’m great. I want people around me that are honest. And that’s why we have the bond and the relationship that we’ve got.

David Beckham wears a black shirt under a black leather jacket.

Leather jacket and denim jeans from The Vintage Showroom and ribbed T-shirt by Two Steeples

Fisher captured you and a lot of other players watching these giant moments in your career, watching your younger selves, reliving these milestones. I love the honesty on all your faces.

DB: To be honest, when Fisher said to me, “I’m going to make you watch [archival footage of] yourself [on] camera, and we are going to be right there [in close-up],” I was like, “Are you sure?” And he was like, “Don’t worry. It’s going to be great.” What we caught with those shots is the emotion; you can’t hide that. When something comes up that means something to you, whether it was me or other people that [were interviewed in the series], you can’t hide that emotion. When something means so much to you, when that emotional side hits you, you can’t hide that. And I think that that’s what Fisher caught. 

I loved working with Fisher. It took me a long time to find the right director. This was such a personal project for me and a personal thing for me to be doing. It took me a lot to come to terms with it and actually agree to do the documentary so I wasn’t going to rush into finding the right director. I met Fisher, and I was like, “Okay, this is the guy that needs to do it,” because he knows soccer. I say he knows football — he’s a Liverpool fan, so I’m not going to give him too much credit. He’s kind of new to the sport, and he came into this with a whole different perspective of how he wanted to tell the story; I think that’s why I loved it. Because when he told me his vision and what he wanted to do, it was completely the opposite of what I expected someone to want to do. I feel bad saying this, [but] I didn’t enjoy the process completely. It was a tough process to go through. Fisher made me feel uncomfortable, which is what we needed; which is what I wanted.

Well, he told me that was very emotional for him as well.

DB: He shed a few tears at one point. There was something very personal that he was asking me, and all of a sudden, I heard him start to sniff and wipe his eyes. I was like, “Wow, you are as emotional as I am right now?” And, to be fair, the crew that we worked with was incredible. I was very lucky to have good people around me. One by one, each of them, at some point, got emotional or laughed or giggled. I say that I didn’t enjoy the process, but I enjoyed being around them.

David Beckham wears gray pants and a light gray shirt and rests against a gray wall.

Shirt by Fendi, trousers by Bottega Veneta at Mr Porter, and shoes by Purdey

I have to talk about Victoria. I think she really stopped audiences in their tracks because we’re used to seeing this figure who feels so removed. To see her just tap in, she was so candid and funny and blunt. Everybody now wants to be friends with Posh.

DB: Yeah, when I talk about Gary and Dave being my best friends, Victoria’s my best friend. I know her better than anyone knows her, other than her mum and dad and vice versa. When we made this, we obviously had a conversation about it, what it was going to be like and what we were going to have to talk about. She was on board from day one, and she knew that it wasn’t just sitting down and doing an interview and having that facade of what everybody thinks she’s like. I think that’s what people loved about her, which is what you’ve just said: People could relate to what she’s talking about.

How was it watching you two young and in love? I remember poring over your wedding photos. It was the wedding of the century.

DB: We watched the first two episodes together, a rough edit. Literally, we got to the end of it and we’d been laughing, we’d been crying, but we were exhausted. We were like, “We have done so much in such a short space of time, but we’ve done it together.” Some of it we’d not seen for a long time or [had] never seen, and it just brought all those memories back. It’s such a special journey that we’ve gone on over the years. The fact that we’ve been able to share it together, and have hard times and great times, and have four amazing kids, and built the businesses that we’ve done, and we’re still together [is incredible]. 

David Beckham wears black pants and a white shirt in a gray-walled room.

Additional creative direction by Sara Hemming, Grooming by Sally O'Neill, Set Design by Emma Roach, and Production by CEBE Studio.

It’s so interesting to me that you do not rest on any of your accomplishments. You just keep moving forward. What is your vision for yourself, with Major League Soccer and beyond?

DB: To be honest, I want to bring great players to Miami because firstly, our fans demand it, and I want to see that as well. I want to continue to build the club as much as we can and to build the league. But with everything else, I think that I want to continue to be happy and enjoy what I do. I like being busy. I like working hard. I like traveling. I like building the business. I learned from [Manchester United manager] Sir Alex Ferguson very early on in my career that you don’t just rest on the success that you have. You move forward very quickly. Some of the people in my office would like to celebrate a little bit more with the great things that we do because we have achieved so much in the business. I always think there’s a time to celebrate and there’s a time to move on. I don’t like to celebrate too much. I like to do something, achieve it, and move on.