Saturday, October 29, 2011

Early drafts of the Moneyball screenplay

So the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last night, to close out an exciting last month of this year's baseball season. With that in mind, here are two versions of the Moneyball screenplay which many have said is a movie that aptly reflects this year's dramatic finish. As Sony Pictures has yet to release the official script for the film, these are both early drafts from before Aaron Sorkin was brought on board.

The first version is a witty second draft by Oscar-winning Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List) from December 1, 2008. The other version is a subsequent shooting draft from June 22, 2009 with rewrites done by director Steven Soderbergh. This intriguing script was infamous for causing Sony Chairman Amy Pascal and her executives to pull the plug on the film five days before Soderbergh was to start production. It includes the following note by Soderbergh before page 1.
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.
Sony claimed that they were shocked at this ultra-realistic approach, yet Soderbergh had submitted a number of earlier drafts with similar notes indicating that “if it didn’t happen in real life, it wasn’t going to be in the movie.” He had also already shot interviews with ball players and people who knew Billy Beane with Sony's approval. His experimental semi-documentary approach couldn't have been a surprise to Sony. I suspect they just lost their nerve in making something so edgy but expensive and therefore a huge gamble.

That's too bad. As good as Moneyball is, it's fairly conventional and could have been something exciting and groundbreaking had Soderbergh gone ahead with his approach.

After Soderbergh was canned, another Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) was brought in to rewrite the script. Then Bennett Miller was hired to direct. Zaillian and Sorkin took turns rewriting each other but did not work together. The final movie turned out very well, though as I said it is fairly conventional as well.

Here are the scripts. Just click on the title.


Moneyball (12-01-2008) (Steven Zaillian; based on the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis)

Moneyball (06-22-2009) (Steven Zaillian; revisions by Steven Soderbergh; based on the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis)


I've also provided links for the Bridesmaids screenplay and for six films from Focus Features.

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