The crowd gathers in cathedrals built with reverential care; the fans nitpick over every tiny nuance, while the players excel by learning the importance of working as a team while also maintaining an equal emphasis on individual achievement. And oh yeah, the people involved have been known to make a few bucks.
The way Todd Zeile sees it, the movie business isn't that much different from baseball. In fact, after retiring from Major League Baseball last season, Zeile already has his first movie on deck — the teen comedy "Dirty Deeds," which opens Friday and was produced by his Green Diamond Entertainment (see "Barry Bonds Surprises Crowd At 'Dirty Deeds' Premiere").
"We've got some names that you'll know," smiled Zeile as he recently discussed his revolutionary production company. "Jason Giambi, Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine, Al Leiter, Cliff Floyd, and then most recently Kevin Millar has joined the cast of characters."
Add to the list former Gold Glove third-baseman Robin Ventura, and you've got a collection of some of the best-known baseball names of the last decade, investing their time and money into a raunchy flick that hopes to appeal to the same moviegoers who turned Seann William Scott into a urine-drinking yet bankable movie star.
"The basic plot of 'Dirty Deeds,' " Zeile summarized, "is a high school senior coaxed into performing this series of outrageous deeds that is a tradition at his school." One of these pranks, in particular, hopes to leave a delightfully foul taste in the mouths of the audience. "It has some 'American Pie' elements, obviously," he continued, "and I think that anybody that sees the film sort of makes that correlation because of ... the soon-to-be infamous 'bread scene.' Without giving too much away, one of the deeds that [Milo Ventimiglia's rebellious teen Zach] has to perform is to have, let's call it a relationship, with a loaf of bread. ... He makes the loaf of bread quite happy, I think."
If "Deeds," which also stars Lacey Chabert and Zoe Saldana, resonates with audiences the way the "American Pie" films did, the loaf of bread won't be the only one that's happy. "We wanted to try to appeal to [teens] at least for this first go-around," remarked the 39-year-old Zeile. "[We want] to get ourselves established in the business."
The Green Diamond gang aren't the only ones. April saw the release of "Fever Pitch," a romantic comedy that featured onscreen performances from Boston Red Sox players Millar, Johnny Damon and others. In the past, stars like Kevin Costner might take batting practice with a team, or Reggie Jackson might do a small cameo in a "Naked Gun"-type film. Recently, however, stars from each world are increasingly intermingling while also helping each other live out their secondary dreams.
"I've got a couple buddies of mine who wrote a baseball movie this year, and we're trying to get it produced," revealed acting veteran and current "Desperate Housewives" star James Denton. "We're talking about trying to do that right now and talking to some friends of mine that I've met this year, including [Cincinnati Reds first baseman] Sean Casey and some other baseball players that seem to be hams."
Zeile and his Green Diamond partners admit to at least an initial fear that making a baseball movie might undermine their goals of being taken seriously in Hollywood. "The next project that we have we cannot officially announce yet," Zeile said, noting that it would not be a sports-related project. "The director is very talented; a hot, young director. ... The next project is an absolutely polar opposite of 'Dirty Deeds' in the sense that it's very serious. It's a drama, it's got some great foreign value, and I think it's going to have some real actors' actors in it."
Once Green Diamond is established, however, Zeile said the players would entertain notions of a movie about the national pastime: "The one baseball project that we have is a little ways down the line, but it's really interesting, a period piece ... we're talking about late '40s, early '50s. Negro Leagues. A very, very interesting real-life story that's got some great human elements to it."
In the meantime, baseball's greatest names are happy to work in Hollywood, and the town is happy to have them and their money. "I'm a Yankees fan, I'm from New York," beamed Michael Sullivan, a 27-year-old "Deeds" actor. "I've met everybody from Mike Piazza to Jason Giambi to Barry Bonds to Al Leiter; I've met everybody through this company."
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