Variety reports that Sony Pictures has pulled the plug on Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of Moneyball (thanks to Rob Neyer for the link).
Even in the climate of heightened studio caution, the turnaround news on “Moneyball” is surprising given that the project had reached the equivalent of third base. It was just 96 hours before the participants were ready to take the field, following three months of prep and with camera tests completed and cast and budget in place.
…Aside from actors like Pitt and Demetri Martin, Soderbergh is using real ballplayers — such as former A’s Scott Hatteberg and David Justice — as actors, and he also has shot interviews with such ballplayers as Beane’s former Mets teammates Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson and Darryl Strawberry. Those vignettes would be interspersed in the film.While Soderbergh is confident his take will work visually, Columbia brass had doubts on a film that costs north of $50 million. That is reasonable for a studio-funded pic that includes the discounted salary of a global star like Pitt, but baseball films traditionally don’t fare well on the global playing field.
This is a shame but not a surprise. Back in the summer of 2003, I interviewed Michael Lewis and we talked about how difficult it would be to make Moneyball into a movie:
Bronx Banter: Have you sold the movie rights to “Moneyball” yet?
Michael Lewis: I didn’t have much hope that anyone would buy them. Because I can’t really see how you could make it into a movie—a good movie, anyway. What happens is, if somebody bought it for the movies, you’d have to create some sort of female role. They would just have to. You just have to twist so much. Having seen “Liar’s Poker” get bought for a lot of money, and then completely mangled in the creation of the script, and eventually never getting made. If they can’t make that, I can’t imagine how they can make this. There have been, oddly enough, some feelers from people who say they want to buy the rights. A lot of things sell, that shouldn’t sell, accidentally. That might happen, but I’d be really surprised if it ever became a movie.