Nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor, Columbia Pictures’ critically acclaimed sports-oriented film “Moneyball” is based on the true story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) – once a would-be baseball superstar who, stung by the failure to live up to expectations on the field, turned his fiercely competitive nature to management.
Directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote”), “Moneyball” also bagged nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
In 2003, former Salomon Brothers bond trader turned author Michael Lewis, at the time best known for such business and politics bestsellers as Liar’s Poker and The New New Thing, published a book about baseball. Only it wasn’t just about baseball. On the surface, it was about how the under-funded, underrated Oakland A’s took on an unfair system of big-money and powerhouse teams. But it was really about the fascinating mix of men behind a major cultural shift and how a risky vision, born from necessity, becomes reality, when a ragtag team of cast-offs rejected due to unfounded biases, get the chance to finally prove their potential.
Now, Lewis’s book has been adapted into a feature film, “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the A’s General Manager – the man who would have to think differently and reinvent the rules if his team was going to compete. “Moneyball is a classic underdog story,” says Pitt, who also serves as a producer of the project. “They go up against the system. How are they going to survive, how are they going to compete? Even if they do groom good talent, that talent gets poached by the big-market, big-money teams. And what these guys decided was, they couldn’t fight the other guy’s fight, or they were going to lose. They had to re-examine everything, to look for new knowledge, to find some kind of justice.”
At first glimpse, Lewis’ best-selling and groundbreaking book does not lend itself to a film adaptation. The book is a study of inefficiencies and oversights within the markets of the game of baseball and features case studies of undervalued items, (players, strategies, tactics), using analyses of statistics and theories. But at the center of it all is Billy Beane on a quixotic quest and as his story unfolds, something unexpected happens. His pursuit of a championship leads to something larger and more meaningful. The hallways and front offices of the Oakland Coliseum become an unlikely setting for inspiration and redemption.
Lewis’ book sheds light on the hindrances of groupthink and how irrational intuition and conventional ‘wisdom’ have dominated institutions throughout history. Challenging a system invariably provokes a fight. The film Moneyball builds its foundation from the experience of one man who chooses to take on that fight. Piercing through the layers of statistics, the film finds the quieter, deeper, and more personal story of Billy Beane, which bristles with moments of self-doubt and real life courage.
“Whenever a book is adapted into a movie, there are two possibilities: either the filmmakers stick to the book, or they make up their own story,” says Michael Lewis. “With `Moneyball,’ frankly, I wondered how they were going to do it, because the book doesn’t necessarily have a single narrative or the kind of dramatic arc you usually see in a movie. So it was truly tough to crack the code and get it right and it was an extremely pleasant surprise to see that Bennett and the screenwriters did the impossible – not only did I love the movie, but I was stunned by how well it represents my book. It is honest and true to what happened with Billy and the A’s and what they achieved.”
Bennett Miller adds, “I wasn’t interested in the tropes of sports movies. I’d rather not end a film with a hero carried off on the shoulders of teammates in a stadium where fans are screaming their heads off, champagne corks flying, trophies, fireworks, and all of that. I prefer the quiet triumphs, that might not burn as bright but deeper and more lasting, where you see someone struggle internally and then come out the other side to realize something has changed within them.”
“Michael Lewis likes stories about unconventional thinkers,” says Miller. “That’s what Moneyball is – a story about a character whose past and whose circumstances lead him to and require him to think differently. I like that you have a character who takes a risk not just to make something of himself, but more so to understand something about himself. Billy is trying to do something more meaningful than simply win baseball games – only even he doesn’t really understand that until he starts to turn things around. All of a sudden this baseball season, which is a David versus Goliath story, becomes not just one competitive man’s desperate attempt to win games. It’s really a trial, an attempt to prove something that would, if proven true, explain in part why his life turned out the way it did, which is a thrilling idea.”
Opening soon across the Philippines, “Moneyball” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.