I don’t usually print this stuff but the Moneyball story fascinates me. In real life there are two sides to every story. But in Hollywood, there are a dozen. Here is an e-mail I received from someone very close to the project. It seems this thing is way more complicated than just “your draft/my draft”, and gives us some insight into just how difficult it is to get movies made. Here is the original Moneyball review if you’re not caught up.
I just wanted to bring your attention to the fact that in your post..you made a comment about a scene in the Zaillian draft where Billie says goodbye to his girlfriend at the airport..and that ‘that let you know everything you needed to know about Billy for the next 2 hours.’
That scene is missing from the Soderbergh draft because it never happened and Billy B has been happily married for 10 years. You can’t have a major plot point of a movie the fact that someone is always in bed with a different girl or getting a girl’s phone number when at that point in his life he was married. This is one of the **many incorrect things in the Zaillian draft…one of the **many things that would have gotten Sony sued. Billy Beene and Paul dePodesta had to sign off on the script and had to let MLB know they were fine with the content…their opinions also influenced whether or not MLB would approve the script. Without MLB approval the film couldn’t use any of the real teams or players. Zaillian told Soderbergh that ‘everything’ in his script was true and had ‘happened’ it was only after interviewing various people in the script that Soderbergh found out it was just the opposite..95% never happened.
Brad Pitt wanted David Frankel off the project and was not happy with the Zaillian draft. (Brad has script approval and only approved the final Soderbergh script.) BP convinced Soderbergh to come onboard.
All the talk about baseball movies being financially risky…Amy Pascal had approved the Frankel/Zaillian film for 70 million. Soderbergh brought the budget down to 57 million. In part by getting Brad to reduce his fee. Brad was not signed to do this film..Soderbergh got him to commit..he’d only been ‘attached’ and that means next to nothing (esp with Brad)
Soderbergh was also going to be making less than Frankel..staggering especially since Soderbergh acts as his own cinematographer and was planning on editing the film himself. He was dedicated to bring in the project with a decent number and with making a great movie.
Amy Pascal signed off on Soderbergh’s take to use the real baseball players and to restructure the film back in April. Zaillian’s draft of May that keeps getting referenced on the internet was a power play on Zaillian’s part..he was supposed to be doing a polish with Soderbergh’s notes and instead of giving the script to Soderbergh (who would have called WTF because Zaillian hadn’t done the work that they had discussed) Zaillian turned his draft in to Sony (because he wanted to get a 500,000 payment he was due for a ‘step’) After wasting time (6 weeks waiting for the Zaillian work) and money..Soderbergh decided to do the work himself. Amy knew all of this and was well aware of the script and structure/content..nothing was a surprise to her 3 days before shooting was to begin.
So why was a 70 million dollar baseball movie ok but a 57 million dollar baseball movie now ‘risky’?
Also Amy has spent 14 million on this movie so far..(6 million on rights…2 different sets of writers prior) and Soderbergh had been criss-crossing the country shooting interviews for a month. She can’t use the Zaillian script because of MLB. if she wants to start all over she has to hire new writers, hope that script gets approved by MLB and then find a star (Brad won’t stay without Soderbergh) So say she manages to get some writers..an A or B director…how much will that movie cost? 40 or 50? plus the 14 she already has in…plus no major movie star like Brad…how is that version of the movie ever going to be more viable than the Pitt/Soderbergh/57 million dollar version.
The smart move for Amy would to try and work this out with Pitt and Soderbergh..then she comes across as a tough studio boss that strong armed 2 major talents and won. She can’t financially make this work any other way and can’t just write off 14 million.
So there you have it. Accuracy issues, MLB approval, budgets, writers trying to make more money. This is complicated stuff.