Today was supposed to be the first day of principal photography on Steven Soderbergh’s Moneyball, an adaptation of the bestselling Michael Lewis novel about former ballplayer William Lemar “Billy” Beane, who combined the Oakland A’s cost-effective strategy with a winning team starting in 1998.
Brad Pitt was attached to play Beane, and the rest of the cast was attached, including real life players Scott Hatteberg and David Justice, camera tests had been done, the budget was in place…but Amy Pascal, head of Columbia pictures put the film into limited turnaround last Friday, meaning Soderbergh can shop the script around to other studios in an attempt to get someone like Warner Brothers (who used to be the umbrella for Soderbergh’s Section Eight) or Paramount (who is still the home to Pitt’s Plan B) to foot the bill and champion the picture.
By all trade accounts, Pascal didn’t like the new draft of the script, still by Steven Zaillian, but tweaked by Soderbergh. The inclusion of non-fiction interviews with ex-ballplayers interspersed throughout the narrative might have been what threw Pascal, but all accounts suggest that she hadn’t actually seen the interviews already shot.
From what’s been reported, Pascal just got $50 million dollar cold feet, knowing that the budget was relatively low for a Brad Pitt flick with an Oscar winning director onboard, but that most American sports films fail to perform over seas. It’s entirely possible that Pascal simply didn’t see the marketing angle or drama in the new draft of the script, though it’s odd that script issues kill a film this close to production.
The whole thing smacks of irony, both with the story of Moneyball, the book, focusing on Sabermetrics, the analysis of baseball through objective evidence and without subjective judgments (so: Baseball movies don’t make much money, this one is expensive, let’s not make it, regardless of how many good folks are on board) and the fact that Brad Pitt dropped out of State Of Play (to be replaced by Russell Crowe) for the exact same reason: the shooting script differed too much from his idea of the film.
As of this morning, neither Warners or Paramount have announced financing of Moneyball.