Sony Pulls Plug on Pitt/Soderbergh Project, Moneyball

Published 6 years ago by , Updated August 22nd, 2013 at 5:36 pm,

moneyball book Sony Pulls Plug on Pitt/Soderbergh Project, MoneyballLike just about everybody these days, Hollywood is tightening its belt to weather the economic downturn, which basically translates to cutting loose any and every project that is not a guaranteed cash-cow, or doesn’t seem likely to strike gold.

Well, Sony Chairman Amy Pascal is flexing her executive muscle and showing that she isn’t afraid to make the hard choices for the (perceived) good of the studio: Pascal has pulled the plug on Moneyball, an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ baseball bestseller, starring $uperstar leading man Brad Pitt, and helmed by Ocean’s Eleven franchise director, Steven Soderbergh.

Did I mention that Pascal brought the ax down on Moneyball mere hours before the film was supposed to start shooting today??? Talk about a reality check: Pitt and Soderbergh have been big power player$ in Hollywood for at LEAST the last half decade, despite any economic turmoil that has occurred in those years.  When is the last time you think either of them (let alone both of them) got behind a project and were ready to roll, only to be told at the last minute, “Not going to happen”?

It’s easy to read a scenario like that and think: “Have the studio suits lost their minds???”

So let’s talk about: is Amy Pascal losing it or showing the kind of hard-nosed edge that keeps studios afloat during uncertain times?

According to Variety, Pascal originally backed Moneyball until Soderbergh turned in a shooting script that was something of a departure from the original script by writer Steven Zaillian. Those changes were enough for Pascal to reverse her position and swing the aforementioned ax, just when the movie was gearing up to shoot.

For those who don’t know, here is a quick synopsis of what Moneyball is all about:

The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget, by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.

Baseball fans are of course familiar with Beane’s story, and how the Oakland A’s manager arguably helped redefine how professional baseball players are ranked and measured. To me Moneyball sounds like a wonderful ESPN or HBO Sports documentary – but I can easily see how a film adaptation can be viewed as a risky venture. As Thompson on Hollywood points out, baseball films are (no pun) hit or miss and often have a hard time finding an audience overseas in countries where baseball is not a major sport. Think about it: how many Americans would run out to see a movie about the recruiting practices in professional soccer?

As for Moneyball: Pascal shouldn’t be viewed as being totally ruthless: Soderbergh will have to find a way to get the film financed if he still wants to do it – which means covering tens of millions in pre-production and script costs – or else the property returns to Sony, where Pascal will likely go with the Zaillian script she first approved, likely under the helm of a new director. Either that or the studio would simply cut its losses and shelf the project altogether. We’ll see.

Brad Pitt’s subsequent involvement with the project is anybody’s guess at this point. Depending on how much prepping he did to play the role of Billy Beane – and/or his loyalty to Soderbergh – I’d think its fair to say the actor is in an awkward position right about now.

What do you think: is Amy Pascal making a shrewd move? Or is she pissing-off two major players in Pitt and Soderbergh?

No telling at this point IF Moneyball is ever going to hit theaters, let alone when. We’ll keep you posted.

Sources: Variety & Thompson on Hollywood

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  1. Hollywood: If it’s not a sequel. If it’s not a remake. If there’s no brand recognition. We don’t want it.

  2. As a screenwriter, it’s distressing for me to hear that studios are cutting back on any type of production. In times of distress, the public historically will ramp up their movie attendance, paying any price for escape. Blockbuster movies are no longer about art, they’re about money. Moviemaking is a business, no matter how creative the writers and actors have to be to get it to the public. Removing this movie is not about returns, it’s political. Hollywood executives could easily be led around by their ego and – having much power – create havoc if they are not happy. Obviously, Moneyball would have had at least a modicum of success because it had big names attached to it — if not on the big screen, then it would have been a good rental. This is political, not creative, nor money motivated. When I look at the list of movies coming out today, I’d like to see something grown up, not The Lone Ranger, The Flash, The Hobbit, Ninja Assisin, Robin Hood, Robocop, Spider-Man 4, Star Trek, Thor, GI Joe, Green Hornet, Superman, Transformers 2, Green Lantern, Wolvervine, Wonder Woman, X-Men. Are they kidding? I guess Hollywood has forgotten that the ticketfunders are all usually over 15 — and, as they say if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Please! At least give grown folks something to watch while we’re waiting for our kids to be special effected and filled up with 10-times-overpriced snacks!

  3. I heard Sony was the only studio with money for development and are eager to greenlight films… Oh, well…


  4. First, though I’m not privy to the script, the movie certainly doesn’t need to be a quasi-documentary. Beane, as an amateur ballplayer, was very, very highly ranked–touted as the next superstar. When he hit pro ball, he failed, and badly. But instead of turning his back on the game, as most would have done, he turned around and diffidently knocked on the back door, so to speak, entering management at about the lowest level possible. From there, by diligence and character, he worked his way up to being one of the most influential men in the game. I daresay that that would make a story line that works relatively independent of the actual sport involved.

    Second, I agree that with Pitt and Soderbergh involved, and considering the last-minute character of Pascal’s move, it indeed was political and not economic. Which is a great shame.

    Let us hope that the movie can somehow be rescued, and soon.

  5. Reelwriter:
    >I guess Hollywood has forgotten that the ticketfunders are all usually over 15.

    As much as I agree with you that movies nowadays are too much geared towards kids it’s also true, unfortunately, that this is the most profitable key demographic. After all, there’s a reason why most hollywood films are either targeted to under 15-year-olds or are made to be “for all ages”.

  6. I’m sure Ms Pascal had a really good reason. But economics, I think, isn’t one of them. The director is Steven Soderbergh- a director who usually shuns union, turns away actors who want a hundred perks, does 20 or more setups a day, and always makes good films. I don’t think it is a youth thing either. While some of our youth might indeed have been born the same year Steven Soderbergh made his first film (sex,lies and videotape) I’ll play a slight optimist and conclude that this generation knows of the Oceans films. Maybe that’s a stretch…

    But Steven Soderbergh is a great director who keeps costs down. It would have been a modest budgeted film at worst. So I’m siding with Ms. Pascal here. It probably wasn’t the script that the studio signed off on. Yes, she’s going to catch heat for it, but tough choices are made all the time. Could Steven Soderbergh find alternative means to make the film? Or another studio (like WB?) I wouldn’t doubt it. The only question is how long could he keep Brad Pitt onboard.

  7. I am sure Brad Pitt will stay onboard, he and Soderbergh must have a good relationship after the Ocean films. Otherwise, its back to Clooney…hmm, maybe Clooney can self finance this film to be made and shop it around?

  8. I’m pretty sure the actors are going to sue for some payola.