Steven Soderbergh had nothing if not grand ambitions for his take on “Moneyball.”
“I hope it sets a new standard,” he told MTV News in the spring of 2009. “Hopefully, anybody who makes a sports movie from now on is going to have to grapple with this.”
Soderbergh’s plan for the adaptation of Michael Lewis’ best-selling book about the 2002 Oakland A’s included re-creating the bowels of Oakland Coliseum and casting ballplayers and coaches to play their big-screen counterparts. The filmmaker also proposed, most ambitiously (and probably a bit bizarrely), the use of an Oracle-like persona, based on the legendary statistician Bill James, presented as an animated character and commissioned with narrating the action.
Grand stuff, no doubt, but also perhaps not the stuff that would lead anyone beyond sports nuts and movie nerds to buy tickets to check it out. And so Sony pulled the plug on the production days before filming was to begin. “Moneyball” appeared to be dead. But at the suggestion of Catherine Keener, Sony tapped Bennett Miller, who had worked with Keener on “Capote,” to helm the picture.
Years later, with the movie set to hit theaters on Friday, star Brad Pitt has no doubt Miller was the perfect guy for the job. “I think it is the right way to do ’Moneyball.’ Soderbergh was really heading in the same direction, in a sense,” Pitt told MTV News.
Sort of. Miller’s version certainly doesn’t have an animated Bill James. We have a feeling Pitt would have been keen to move forward with Soderbergh, with whom he’s worked on the “Ocean’s Eleven” films. But it wasn’t Pitt’s call, and he’s no doubt correct that Miller delivered a top-notch sports flick.
“That was a studio call,” Pitt said of pushing Soderbergh out. “And, man, we want to get the thing going! We didn’t have a choice but to remount it in some way. … [We] sat down with Bennett and we were just talking the same language. Just love the ’70s films. What you’ll see about Bennett is he’s a very, very bright and thoughtful man and deals with Socratic thought and was a documentarian and all these things that led nicely to the telling of these stories.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Moneyball.”
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