Mystery Man: An Intro to the Moneyball Disaster

Let’s talk scandal, baby!

Moneyball was in development a few years and championed by Columbia Pictures co-chair cutie Amy Pascal. It’s an adaptation of a popular book by Michael Lewis.

Whispering lips say the studio spent roughly $10 million to get this project off the ground. Steven Zaillian wrote a script. Everybody loved it. Soderbergh came onboard. Brad Pitt came onboard. The budget ballooned to around $57 million, which is quite risky. Baseball movies can be hit and miss. They rarely play well overseas, and you’re lucky to get $35 million domestic.

Soderbergh told ESPN: “My clearly stated goal is to set a new standard for realism in that [sports] world.” He proceeded to tinker with Steven Zaillian’s script.

Just days before production was to begin, Amy Pascal gasped and pulled the plug.

Soderbergh’s tinkering gave the studio a case of cold feet. The project was put into limited turnaround, which meant that other studios had the chance to pick it up. They all politely declined.

According to Michael Fleming:

“Soderbergh and Pascal had discussions about his vision when the director signed on, Soderbergh last Tuesday turned in a rewrite that sources said was substantially different from a Zaillian script that Pascal — and Pitt — loved. Soderbergh took the film from a classically structured drama to a hybrid that has a documentary feel, complete with footage of actual ballplayers who witnessed Beane’s metamorphosis from player to exec who fielded competitive teams by using statistics instead of paying big salaries. Pitt didn’t read the script until last Wednesday, but he continued to back Soderbergh.”

Oh, but wait. There’s also the Brad Pitt theory:

“The new spin out of the Sony camp … is that Brad Pitt disliked the new script as much as Amy Pascal and that he is the one who secretly sunk the ship, though he didn’t want to be seen as doing it.”

But then Anne Thompson wrote:

“That is not what I’m hearing from Pitt’s camp. They say he was ready to make Soderbergh’s movie. It’s hard to imagine Pitt agreeing to make the movie with another director at this point. It would have to be Soderbergh or no one. Pascal was demanding certain changes that Pitt and Soderbergh refused to make and threw her foot down, perfectly willing to walk away. Point is, she would have made the movie a year ago. She can’t afford for this movie to lose money right now, bottom line.”

But, of course, Pitt’s camp would continue to publicly back Soderbergh, wouldn’t they?

Then there was that infamous e-mail that made the rounds and got removed.

David Poland had many questions, such as “How could Soderbergh be shooting interviews for the movie on the studio dime without the studio knowing what his plan was?”

But no worries, Aaron Sorkin’s on it now. And, apparently, he has a whole team of writers.

And now Soderbergh has relaxed and joked about the whole sad affair:

“There have been a couple of times in my career where I’ve been unceremoniously removed from projects. I don’t waste a lot of energy on it. It doesn’t get you anywhere. As soon as it became clear that there was no iteration of that movie that I was going to get to direct, I immediately started looking around for something else to do. I have a couple of other things in development that I had hoped to move up, but actors’ schedules wouldn’t allow it. But I have something I can get to after the first of the year, and I’m supposed to do my Liberace movie next summer. So my attitude when something like that happens is, ‘What’s next?’ You can’t dwell on it.”

Brad Pitt still sounds hopeful, but as he said, “It’s a weird climate right now.”

So let’s analyze the scripts, MM-style.

2 thoughts on “Mystery Man: An Intro to the Moneyball Disaster

    1. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman

      I’ve searched through the archives and I can’t find a continuation of this article. Unfortunately, Mystery Man has passed away and contributed before I became the Editor, so I’m not able to find out if a continuation ever existed. If I find one, I’ll let you know.

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