Update on the Sony/Soderbergh/Pitt 'Moneyball' Fiasco

Last week started off with the crazy news that Sony Chairman Amy Pascal had pulled the plug on Moneyball, Steven Soderbergh's adaptation of Michael Lewis's book about Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, mere hours before the film (which starred Brad Pitt as Beane, no less) was set to start shooting.

Well now that some dust has settled, Pascal is speaking up about the Moneyball fiasco, essentially trying to walk the tightrope of preserving her relationship with Soderbergh and Pitt while still maintaining that she made the right call.

Studio execs-in-training, pay attention and see how it's done:As Pascal told the L.A. Times:

I've wanted to work with Steven forever, because he's simply a great filmmaker...But the draft he turned in wasn't at all what we'd signed up for. He wanted to make a dramatic reenactment of events with real people playing themselves. I'd still work with Steven in a minute, but in terms of this project, he wanted to do the film in a different way than we did.

Pascal is of course referring to the incident five days prior to the scheduled start date of Moneyball, when Soderbergh turned in the final draft of his shooting script to Sony - a draft that completely re-imagined the film Sony thought they had signed-off on.

According to Patrick Goldstein at the L.A. Times, the original script for Moneyball (written by Oscar winner Steve Zaillian) "was a baseball movie, but it was loaded with great comic moments and dazzling dialogue that captured the frenetic energy of Beane...who operated more like "Entourage's" Ari Gold than the buttoned-down insiders who normally run big-league teams."

Sounds good, right? Get Brad Pitt in there, have him do a kind of an Ocean's Eleven-meets-Burn After Reading type character with Soderbergh making everything look snazzy and bada-bing bada-boom, funny/entertaining baseball movie a la Major League. I dig it.

However, according to Goldstein, Soderbergh's rewrite tossed out all that yuck-yuck good feeling in favor of one totalitarian strict doctrine: "If it didn't happen in real life, it wasn't going to be in the movie." Sorderbergh wanted to interview the actual people involved with Beane's transformation of the way baseball players are scouted and developed, with real footage shot in real parks, resulting in more of an artistic exploration of America's favorite pastime and the way it was changed by Beane, for better or worse.

Interesting idea (worthy of a documentary, for sure) but is it any surprise that Sony didn't want to sink nearly $60 mil into something that had little chance of turning a profit? There is a recession on, and baseball movies are FAR from guaranteed money-makers.

So what is the fate of Moneyball now? Well, Pascal extended an olive branch of sorts by allowing Soderbergh the freedom to shop the film around town in order to secure new financing. No such luck for Soderbergh as of yet, and The New York Times is even reporting that he's now officially off the project. If no one else scoops Moneyball, it'll land back in Sony's lap, and Pascal, for one, seems willing to make another go of it (especially if Pitt is involved): "We really hope we can still make this with Brad Pitt."

Brad Pitt is of course a longtime friend of Steven Soderbergh, so barring an insistent go-ahead from his buddy, it's more unlikely than not that Pitt will remain attached to the project. Could happen though. Sony would also need to find another director that could bring Zaillian's 'funny engergetic' script to life, and considering the disaster with the last director and the $10 mil already wasted spent on the project, it's unclear at this point whether or not Sony will take another swing at Moneyball.

We'll keep you updated.

Source: L.A. Times

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