Stories like this make me fall in love with Steven Soderbergh all over again. He’s making Moneyball, a film based on Michael Lewis’ book of the same name about how Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane used an unusual statistics system to build the best and cheapest team in baseball. Brad Pitt is in the lead as Beane, Demetri Martin is in the cast and the script is by Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List, American Gangster). This week, the LA Times reported that the budget is amazingly high for what sounds like a total niche movie: $57 million. Even with Pitt on board, that is remarkable. Where’s all that money going to go?
For one, there’s the fact that Soderbergh wants to animate the character of Bill James, the guy who came up with the stats system Beane uses to build a winning, affordable team. He also wants to hire as many real players that were part of the story as possible, and shoot in the A’s stadium. But the Times reports that the script is very much like the book, which could make for a movie that just doesn’t appeal to all audiences. Granted, the story can be characterized as a second chance tale (Beane was a failed ball player) which people respond to even when disguised with stats and baseball scheming.
And that’s where the Times piece gets interesting. The suggestion is that the movie is getting made because studio execs see themselves in the story. Producer Michael DeLuca basically did the same thing with New Line in the ’90s that Beane did with the A’s, i.e. building a great reputation out of smart deals with affordable talent. So no matter that Zallian’s script is said to be original and not based on tired sports movie conventions; the thing might essentially be getting made because execs are able to see themselves in the story. That’s great for Soderbergh, who gets to make an unsusual studio picture with a lot of money, but more than slightly frustrating when you think about all the other great stories waiting to be filmed that just don’t click with a studio’s own sense of achivement and therefore never happen.
[via The Playlist, whose piece on this reminded me that I needed to go back to the LA Times article I skimmed when it appeared while I was at E3.]