The Sony Pictures executive who pulled the plug on Moneyball says that Steven Soderbergh changed the original script because he didn't want anything in the movie that didn't actually happen. So Billy Beane isn't a sweaty, foul-mouthed, Hooters waitress slayer?
Everyone loved Steven Zallian's version (he's an Oscar-winner, you know!), because it had jokes and snappy dialogue and actually made sabermetrics non-mind numbing. But Soderbergh wanted realism so much, he was determined to only film events that took place in real life. He also scrapped the conceit of having Bill James as the "Greek chorus", bookending the film with his anecdotes with and wise old man stories. The verdict:
That might make for an intriguing art film, but it clearly was no longer a film that any studio would spend $58 million to make, especially with baseball films having virtually no appeal outside of the U.S.
We got our hands on the Soderbergh draft, and it's about as bad as others have said. Gone, thankfully, is the Beane-as-dork-Messiah stuff. Soderbergh's Beane is more of a proxy for the audience this time — Bud Fox meets Crash Davis, as they say in Hollywood — and in his script, Moneyball is more of a Beane-Paul DePodesta buddy movie, which maybe makes some sense when you imagine Brad Pitt and Demetri Martin in those roles. Maybe.
The script was probably doomed from its second page, from which the above image was taken. Here's Soderbergh's disclaimer:
Billy Beane's minor and major league career will be shown via filmed interviews with scouts, coaches, managers, players, and family members who were with him at the time. These interviews will comprise approximately ten percent of the film.
Another ten percent of the film will consist of re-enactments of real events as remembered by the people playing themselves. The purpose of these scenes will be to provide set-up and perspective for subjects, situations, or relationships which currently appear in the screenplay without the requisite/normal amount of context.
All that is to say an important portion of this film will be written in the editing room. This isn't a cop-out; it's just a fact, and entirely by design.
That sounds an awful lot like, "Yes, this script sucks. But trust me. I made The Limey." It was probably at this point that Amy Pascal, the Sony executive, optioned the script to the bottom of her coffee mug. Even though it was five days from shooting and Sony had already sunk $10 million dollars into the film, Pascal pulled the plug. The movie is now in limbo. The studio would presumably still make the Zaillian version if they could find a director, but would likely lose Brad Pitt if Soderbergh walks. And the current talent is free to take the project somewhere else, but no one is biting, because that brings us all back to the original argument, "Why anyone make a movie about this?" Maybe Scott Hatteberg is really big overseas?
(Additional Soderbergh script reveals, information by Tommy Craggs.)
Sony's Amy Pascal speaks out about 'Moneyball' [Los Angeles Times, via Gawker]
What happened to...Moneyball? [ScriptShadow]
Billy Beane Is A Golden God: Excerpts From The Scrapped Moneyball Script