EXCLUSIVE: Steven Soderbergh To Use Animated Bill James Character In ‘Moneyball’

Steven Soderbergh is making a big push toward realism in his new movie, “Moneyball,” adapted from the best-selling Michael Lewis book that followed the Oakland A’s and their general manager Billy Beane (to be played by Brad Pitt), who used an innovative, statistics-based approach to build the team’s roster and win the 2002 MLB American League West Division title.

To that end, Soderbergh will be casting real life participants to play themselves, filming at American League ballparks around the country and inserting actual MLB game footage into the film. One area in which the Oscar-winning director will not be striving for realism, however, will be with Bill James, the stats guru who has a key role in Lewis’ book and whose body of work Beane applied to his management of the A’s.

“My current plan is to animate him,” Soderberg revealed to MTV News while promoting his Tribeca Film Festival entry, “The Girlfriend Experience.”

James has become something of a mythic individual for sports fans and baseball execs because of his early advancement of so-called sabermetrics, a conventional wisdom-defying approach to evaluating talent that favors statistics such as on-base percentage over traditionally promoted stats like batting average. Since Beane valued players differently than his peers, he was able to stack the A’s relatively cheaply and beat the pants off big money, large market teams. James is currently a senior advisor to the Boston Red Sox.

“We have this sort of oracle character that appears throughout and declaims various issues and he’s essentially supposed to be Bill James,” Soderberg said. “He’s your host in a way…. The background will be real but the person who is supposed to be him will be animated.”

Why the switch between realism and animated fantasy in this case? “It needs a gimmick,” Soderberg explains. “It needs something to make it not Masterpiece Theatre. His writer voice is so big, I thought to literalize it is going to actually harm it. I need to make his voice funny and when he comes on you’re happy to see it.”

What’s your favorite baseball movie of all time? Are you excited for another Soderbergh-Pitt collaboration after the “Ocean’s” trilogy?