Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bennett Miller|
|Story by||Stan Chervin|
|Based on||Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game|
by Michael Lewis
|Music by||Mychael Danna|
|Edited by||Christopher Tellefsen|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$110.2 million|
Moneyball is a 2011 American biographical sports drama film directed by Bennett Miller and written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. The film is based on Michael Lewis's 2003 nonfiction book of the same name, an account of the Oakland Athletics baseball team's 2002 season and their general manager Billy Beane's attempts to assemble a competitive team.
In the film, Beane (Brad Pitt) and assistant GM Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), faced with the franchise's limited budget for players, build a team of undervalued talent by taking a sophisticated sabermetric approach to scouting and analyzing players.
Columbia Pictures bought the rights to Lewis's book in 2004, hiring Stan Chervin to write the screenplay. David Frankel was initially set to direct with Steven Zaillian now writing the screenplay, but was soon replaced by Steven Soderbergh, who planned to make the film in a semi-documentary style featuring interviews from real athletes, and having the real players and coaches on the team portray themselves. However, prior to its July 2009 filming start, the film was put in turnaround due to creative differences between Soderbergh and Sony over a last-minute script rewrite. Soderbergh exited, and Bennett Miller was hired to direct, with Pitt becoming a producer and Aaron Sorkin being hired to provide rewrites. Filming began in July 2010, taking place at various stadiums such as Dodger Stadium and Oakland Coliseum.
Moneyball premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and was released on September 23, 2011, to box office success and critical acclaim, particularly for its acting and screenplay. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Pitt and Best Supporting Actor for Hill.
Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, is hurt by the team's loss to the New York Yankees in the 2001 American League Division Series. With the impending departure of star players Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen to free agency, Beane needs to assemble a competitive team for 2002 with Oakland's limited budget.
During a scouting visit to the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand, a young Yale economics graduate with radical ideas about how to assess player value. Beane tests Brand's theory by asking whether he would have drafted Beane out of high school; though scouts considered Beane promising, his career in the major leagues was disappointing. Brand admits that, based on his method of assessing player value, he would not have drafted him until the ninth round. Impressed, Beane hires Brand as his assistant GM.
Rather than relying on the Oakland scouts' experience and intuition, Brand uses sabermetrics, selecting players based on their on-base percentage. Brand and Beane use this methodology to acquire undervalued players such as unorthodox submarine pitcher Chad Bradford, aging outfielder David Justice, and injured catcher Scott Hatteberg.
The scouts are hostile toward the strategy, and Beane fires head scout Grady Fuson after he accuses Beane of destroying the team. Beane also faces opposition from Art Howe, the Athletics' manager. With tensions already high between them due to a contract dispute, Howe disregards Beane's and Brand's strategy and plays a more traditional lineup that he prefers.
Early in the season, the Athletics are already 10 games behind first, leading critics to dismiss the new method as a failure. Brand argues their sample size is too small to conclude the method does not work, and Beane convinces team owner Stephen Schott to stay the course. He trades away the lone traditional first baseman, Carlos Peña, to force Howe to use Hatteberg, making similar deals so Howe has no choice but to play the team Beane and Brand have designed. Three weeks later, the Athletics are only four games behind first.
Two months later, the team starts a winning streak. Beane, superstitiously, does not watch games, but when they tie the American League record of 19 consecutive wins, his daughter persuades him to attend the next game, against the Kansas City Royals. Oakland is leading 11-0 when Beane arrives in the fourth inning, only to watch the Royals even the score. Thanks to a walk-off home run by Hatteberg, the Athletics achieve a record-breaking 20th consecutive win. Beane tells Brand he will not be satisfied until they have changed baseball by winning the World Series using their system.
The Athletics eventually clinch the 2002 American League West title, but lose to the Minnesota Twins in the 2002 American League Division Series. Beane is contacted by the owner of the Boston Red Sox, John W. Henry, who realizes that sabermetrics is the future of baseball. Beane declines an offer to become the Red Sox general manager, despite the $12.5 million salary, which would have made him the highest-paid general manager in professional sports history. He returns to Oakland, and two years later the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series using the model the Athletics pioneered.
In May 2004, Sony Pictures acquired the rights to the Michael Lewis book, and had hired Stan Chervin to write the screenplay. By October 2008, Brad Pitt was being courted to star in the film, now being written by Steven Zaillian, and David Frankel was attached to direct. Frankel and Pitt met with one another during the week of the 66th Golden Globe Awards, but eventually Frankel would exit the project by February 2009, with Steven Soderbergh entering negotiations to direct. Soderbergh confirmed his involvement in May that year, and in talking about the film, stated "I think we have a way in, making it visual and making it funny. I want it to be really funny and entertaining, and I want you to not realize how much information is being thrown at you because you're having fun. We've found a couple of ideas on how to bust the form a bit, in order for all that information to reach you in a way that's a little oblique".Demetri Martin was cast to play Paul DePodesta in the film, with former Athletics players Scott Hatteberg and David Justice playing themselves, and interview segments featuring players Darryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra set to occur.
Production under Soderbergh was set to begin in July 2009, and was to be shot on location at Oakland Coliseum. Art Howe, former manager of the team, was also set to appear as himself. Five days before its July 8 filming start date, Sony cancelled the film and entered it into "limited turnaround". The cited reason for the cancellation was that, upon a last minute script revision by Soderbergh that added in "an abundance of baseball details", studio executives felt the audience would feel alienated. It was also stated that the studio now felt the film was too "arty" for its $58 million budget. Soderbergh was said to be unwilling to compromise, leaving Sony chairwoman Amy Pascal "apoplectic". Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. both turned down offers to pick up the project. Soderbergh revealed he exited the film in a September 2009 interview with The Orlando Sentinel, saying "There have been a couple of times in my career where I've been unceremoniously removed from projects. I don't waste a lot of energy on it. It doesn't get you anywhere. As soon as it became clear that there was no iteration of that movie that I was going to get to direct, I immediately started looking around for something else to do".
No developments were made again until March 2010, with the casting of Jonah Hill, who was replacing Martin as DePodesta. Upon his request as he felt the script no longer accurately depicted him, DePodesta's name was removed, with Hill now playing the role of Peter Brand.Bennett Miller was hired to direct in April. Aaron Sorkin was brought on to provide a rewrite of the screenplay. Pascal had specifically sought out Sorkin's involvement, in addition to Pitt joining as a producer, and bringing producer Scott Rudin on board as executive producer. Sorkin agreed on the condition Zaillian gave his blessing. Sorkin and Zaillian would eventually work on different drafts of the script independently of one another. Miller took three weeks to agree to do the film, and stated he wasn't interested in making a traditional sports film, seeking instead to make it "subversive to the genre. It's not really a conventional sports movie. It puts all that stuff on its head". Cinematographer Adam Kimmel was initially set to work on the film, but due to his April 2010 arrest for sexual assault, was replaced with Wally Pfister. In May, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright entered negotiations to join the cast, with Hoffman portraying Howe, and Wright as Beane's ex-wife.Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop and Kathryn Morris were added to the cast in July, though Morris's scenes would ultimately be cut from the film. Pratt described how he initially was told in his first audition for the role of Hatteberg that he was "too fat". Pratt took three months to work out and shed 30 pounds, which ultimately led to him winning the role. Bishop, portraying Justice in the film, had grown up idolizing the player, and played baseball for the advanced A affiliate team of the Atlanta Braves at the time Justice was on their roster.
Filming was given a July 2010 start date with a reduced budget of $47 million after Pitt agreed to a pay cut. Filming took place at Blair Field for eight days.Dodger Stadium was used to stand in for multiple different stadiums due to the limited budget. Roughly 700 extras were used for fans in the stadiums for the various baseball scenes. Scenes were shot at the Oakland Coliseum beginning on July 26.
Moneyball premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2011, and was released theatrically on September 23, 2011, by Columbia Pictures. The film was also released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 10, 2012, by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Moneyball grossed $75.6 million in the United States and Canada and $34.6 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $110.2 million, against a production budget of $50 million.
The film grossed $19.5 million from 2,993 theaters in its opening weekend, finishing second at the box office behind the 3D re-release of The Lion King. In its second weekend it grossed $12 million (a drop of only 38.3%), again finishing second.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 94% based on 265 reviews, with an average rating of 7.97/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Director Bennett Miller, along with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, take a niche subject and turn it into a sharp, funny, and touching portrait worthy of baseball lore." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale. The film appeared on 35 critics' top-ten lists for the best films of 2011, with two critics ranking it first, and another ranking it second.
Roger Ebert, in his four star review, praised the film for its "intelligence and depth", specifically highlighting the screenplay and its "terse, brainy dialogue".Manohla Dargis of The New York Times found Pitt's performance "relaxed yet edgy and sometimes unsettling", and stated she couldn't see anyone but Pitt in the role. Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers also praised Pitt's performance, in addition to Miller's direction and the screenplay, which he referred to as "dynamite".Owen Gleiberman for Entertainment Weekly highlighted Hoffman's performance alongside Pitt and Hill, finding Hoffman "does a character turn that's as fresh for him as the crew cut that makes him look like a grizzled old-timer". Kirk Honeycutt was complimentary of the comedic chemistry between Pitt and Hill, which prompted Honeycutt to compare the film to The Bad News Bears and Major League. In his review for New York magazine, while reviewing the film and Pitt's performance, David Edelstein found Pitt's performance made the film more focused towards Beane as opposed to the team.Dana Stevens of Slate found the film could be enjoyed by viewers who typically don't like sports movies. Stevens also highlighted Hill's performance, finding the role "gives him the chance to be funny, not by wisecracking broadly but by underreacting".
In a mixed review written for Slant Magazine, Bill Weber praised Pitt's performance, but found the film formulaic, stating "But true to Hollywood's tireless efforts to fit square-peg material into roundish genre niches, this wavering, intermittently smart story of daring to think differently flattens its narrative into formula". Weber also felt the audience would endure "tonal whiplash", pointing to the scene of Beane and Brand executing various trades he felt was "played for Laughs", but found "the rhythm isn't snappy enough to draw laughs". Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle found the film to be filled with compromises, writing "Someone crammed Major League-style sports cliches into a more nuanced story about baseball and progress - and then tried to fit a Brad Pitt star vehicle inside of that. The result is an interesting but frustrating near-miss". Hartlaub also criticized the film's runtime.
In regards to the film's accuracy, David Haglund of Slate and Jonah Keri of Grantland criticized the Moneyball film and book for excluding the pitchers Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito and position players such as Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada. These players were discovered via traditional scouting methods, and were key contributors to the success of the 2002 Athletics. Former Oakland A's manager Art Howe has spoken publicly about his disapproval of his portrayal in an interview on Sirius XM. "It is very disappointing to know that you spent seven years in an organization and gave your heart and soul to it and helped them go to the postseason your last three years there and win over 100 games your last two seasons -- and this is the way evidently your boss (Beane) feels about you". Howe also stated producers of the Miller version of the film didn't contact him to consult on his portrayal. Scott Hatteberg also said that Howe was portrayed inaccurately saying: "Art Howe was a huge supporter of mine. I never got the impression from him that I was not his first choice." He mentioned Howe and Beane had a "turbulent relationship". The San Francisco Chronicle made note of several inaccuracies in the film, notably that players such as Jeremy Giambi and Chad Bradford had already joined the team prior to the time period in the film, and that the Giambi and Peña trades did not occur at the same time.
Moneyball received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Pitt), Best Supporting Actor (Hill), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing. Additionally, at the 69th Golden Globe Awards, the film received four nominations for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Pitt), Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture (Hill) and Best Screenplay.