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Michael Lewis' 'Moneyball' coming to the big screen

June 17, 2011 |  4:14 pm

Michael Lewis had a bestseller with "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game," which tells the story of how the Oakland A's built a strong team -- against all financial odds -- by parsing stats in startling new ways. And baseball has been stat-happy all along, so startlingly new was pretty much revolutionary.

"Moneyball" was published in 2003. As uncinematic as a story of a baseball guy staring at stats might be, someone figured, it can work if the baseball guy you end up staring at is played by Brad Pitt. OK, there was a little more to it than that. As Patrick Goldstein wrote in The Times in 2009:

It all started when a woman named Rachael Horovitz decided that she needed some good books to read when she went to Tahiti in 2003 for a much-needed vacation. Having spent years working at Fine Line and Revolution, Horovitz decided to strike out on her own and become a producer. She fell in love with "Moneyball," not so much for its inside take on baseball, but because it was such a compelling example of a workplace drama. "For me, the movie is a love story about a man and his job," she explained the other day.

The film rights were there for the taking. "Every studio had passed on the book," she recalled.... "Of course, they all asked the same question -- how do you make a movie out of it? I kept telling everyone 'This is a story anyone can relate to, because it's basically a second chance story. It's about a guy whose early failure could have doomed him to failure, but managed to turn it into a huge life lesson.'"

The film was close to production when a version of the script from director Steven Soderberg was rejected by the studio in 2009. Soderberg left the project and was replaced by Bennett Miller ("Capote'); the script got a once-over from writer Aaron Sorkin. This was back before he won that Oscar for "The Social Network."

"Moneyball" has passed through some very accomplished hands on its way to screens; we'll have to wait until September before its release. Since Michael Lewis hit bestseller lists with the book, he's been able to write another book that has already been made into a successful film. That was his 2006 book, "The Blind Side," whose film adaptation brought Sandra Bullock the best actress Academy Award.

 -- Carolyn Kellogg

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