‘Moneyball’ Post-Season Wrap-up

moneyballTwo and a half weeks ago, Columbia Pictures shut-down the Steven Soderbergh helmed Moneyball, just days before it was to start production. Last week, Soderbergh formally bowed out of the project.

Since then, the explanations as to why the project was put into turnaround at the last-minute, especially with a big star like Brad Pitt have been fast and furious, with each side wanting to get their view across.

Trying to parse the entire situation is very (forgive the pun) “inside baseball.” That said, here is a brief summary of this summer’s hottest off-screen drama.

Initially, the explanation for the “Moneyball” axing was blamed on a script that had deviated from its original awesomeness. By all accounts, the original script by Steve Zaillian was great. Soderbergh’s rewrite, well, the consensus was “not so great.”

Sony’s Amy Pascal echoed this idea (while not directly calling Soderbergh’s script “bad”) in a softball interview with the LA Times:

“I’ve wanted to work with Steven forever, because he’s simply a great filmmaker,” Pascal told me today. “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.”

ScriptShadow then posted an e-mail from someone purportedly close to the project, which told Soderbergh’s side of the story. That blog entry was forced offline by the Sony lawyers (and other websites reprinting the e-mail were similarly threatened), but if you search Google for cache:http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/2009/06/more-on-moneyball.html, you might be able to find it.

Regardless, Gawker got an e-mail with similar information, and as a policy, Gawker doesn’t cave to takedown threats. Essentially the Soderbergh side is, that the script everyone loved so much was inaccurate in ways that would cause both Major League Baseball and the real Billy Beane to refuse to sign-off on the film.

Lose the MLB and you might as well forget about trying to make a professional baseball picture. It’s probably also not a good idea to allege that a longtime married man is a skirt-chaser.

So Soderbergh made these changes, wanted to keep the story accurate, and according to the original ScriptShadow e-mail and Gawker, Sony was well aware of these changes in advance.

The Hot Blog’s David Poland has a nice take on the situation, that argues many of the same points as the Gawker and ScriptShadow tip letters, but also says,

“Movies die every day. Feelings and careers are hurt. (Over 200 people were put out of work unexpectedly by this cancellation.) But the cheap slaps at Soderbergh are way over the top and as unnecessary as slapping down someone you just fired with gossipy attacks (even if accurate), adding insult to injury. Hollywood treats artists like shit because of money and ego. But there is no excuse for those of us who cover the industry to be equally venal.”

Now that the dust has settled, the proverbial post-game analysis has started, including an interesting piece in The Daily Beast that calls into question why Sony would cancel a project with Pitt (despite already spending $10 million), only to sign a production deal with other frequent Soderbergh collaborator George Clooney.

It’s an interesting question, especially in-light of how the two actor’s projects stack up financially. I ultimately think the numbers don’t quite add-up for “Moneyball” to be, about money. As Poland says, “movies die every day.”

After reading through the deluge of “Moneyball” commentary, I’m starting to think that THIS saga might make a better movie than “Moneyball” would have ever been.

Or at the very least, one heck of a book!

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