Sony Trashcans Moneyball Three Days Before Filming

Steven Soderbegh has been given the weekend to find a new home for his Brad Pitt baseball picture Moneyball. If another studio doesn't step up by Monday, Columbia have the option to either fire Soderbergh and replace him or to stall the project indefinitely. The problem, according to Variety, is dispute over the shooting script. This latest draft by Soderbergh and Steve Zaillian has displeased Sony head honcho Amy Pascal so much that she's taken the drastic measure of ditching what sounds like, to me, a golden opportunity. At the very least, this is a Brad Pitt vehicle from an Acadmey Award winning director and an equally Oscared screenwriter.

So, what doesn't she like? Apparently that the script is innovative, that Soderbergh has some ambitious ideas and that the basic sport movie paradigm (yawn) simply doesn't apply to this picture.

Already filmed for the picture are a series of genuine, non-fiction interviews with famous ballplayers, the idea being that these would be interspersed amongst the dramatized scenes. Why Pascal thinks this would scare off viewers I really don't know. Here are what I consider to be two major flaws in her reckoning:

Firstly – viewers don't have to know that the film will contain these interviews, and they can find out by watching the film at which point it's too late to be scared and the audience can just enjoy the film for what it is. There's no rule to say these scenes have to be part of the marketing.

Secondly, and probably more importantly – the typical sports fan watches hours and hours of banal talking heads, year-in, year-out as the match gets deconstructed, say, or the pre-game speculation gets piled up. How will some more sportsmen talking about sport put off any of these folk? Particularly when the discussion here are some events that shaped the course of a sport forever.

If Sony do ditch Soderbergh, there is of course a possibility that Brad Pitt could walk away. I sincerely hope he would do so too. What would justify him staying?

Expect a follow up on this in the next day or two, of course. Who's with me in wanting a more appreciative studio (if such a concept can even apply) to swoop in and save the film? One can always dream, right?