“Trouble with the Curve”
SBIFF Programming Manager Michael Albright with Producer Michele Wiesler and Writer Randy Brown
Albright: This seems like a very personal project and also something that took a long time to come to fruition. This is Robert Lorenz’s directorial debut, a longtime collaborator with Clint Eastwood who worked with Clint for about 20 years prior to getting behind the camera and directing. Why was the timing right to bring all of these creative forces together?
Brown: Well, I actually wrote the first draft of the script about 10 years ago and had it set up at a company with Dustin Hoffman attached to star but that fell apart and I put it in my drawer for a long, long time. I wrote some other things and when I met Michele I was thinking what am I going to write next. I pulled out Trouble With the Curve, but of course it needed to be updated. Michele and I worked on it together and Beyonce got pregnant and Michele knew Rob [Lorenz] and the stars aligned.
Wiesler: Beyonce getting pregnant is relevant! Though I never thought Beyonce’s choice to have a baby would influence my life. Clint was supposed to do A Star Was Born with Beyonce but she got pregnant so the movie got pushed.
Brown: Oh so when I said that she got pregnant that made no sense to anyone. That is why the stars aligned. She got pregnant, Clint had a tiny, tiny window open and Michele gave the script to Rob in this tiny, tiny window and that was the only way it happened with Clint.
Wiesler: Yeah it was perfect timing because it came in before the announcement.
Albright: As I mentioned, Robert Lorenz had worked with Clint for many years before directing, and you wrote this script ten years ago. Even though Dustin Hoffman was originally attached to the film the first time around, did you ever have Clint in mind when you wrote the script? And how did he eventually get involved?
Wiesler: Well I actually had known Rob [Lorenz] for years and had submitted a couple things to him before Clint interacted with him. So I was excited, and I said that this one is a bit more commercial and it is a great role for Clint. I originally sent it in for Clint to direct and star in it, because I didn’t know that they had been trying to find something for Rob to do. So Rob called and said ‘got some good news, he [Clint] wants to do it and wants me to direct, so that is how that came about. And Amy Adams was my first choice and Rob’s first choice. So I sent it out to just a couple of people, but Clint was the first person I sent it to. There were quite a few people that could play Johnny, but we love Justin and it just ended up working out.
Albright: One of the things that I found really unique about this film was actually the character of Mickey, played by Amy Adams. It is refreshing to have such a strong female lead in a baseball/sports film, but you also developed this really great father-daughter relationship. Why did you want to introduce that to the baseball genre?
Brown: I just thought that we haven’t seen any female scouts before, and again the genesis was maybe that it would be kind of cool to have a female scout and a male scout. They are scouting from opposing teams and it’s a romantic comedy, so of course they get together. Then I thought ‘how would she know sports so well?’ It would probably be from her father, and then the story just kind of took a turn and became more of a father-daughter love story.
Albright: Given the subject matter and all baseball trivia throughout, it seems like you are big fan, which of course comes through in the script. Were you a player? Did you grow up around the sport?
Brown: I was a baseball nut. As a kid I loved baseball. I didn’t really set out to write a movie about scouts. One of my favorite movies is Jerry Maguire and I love the notion of a romantic-comedy around sports, so initially the idea was to write it as a romantic-comedy with two opposing scouts then it turned into more of a family father-daughter drama. But to answer your question specifically about baseball, I love baseball, and baseball movies are really hard to get made and if not for Clint it probably wouldn’t have happened, because they don’t do so well overseas.
Albright: Michelle, I’d like to ask about your experiences shooting on location. When I first saw the film I was very attached to this idea that the story is taking place in North Carolina, and I thought you used the locations very well. However, later I discovered that it is mostly shot in Georgia. I was wondering why you chose to shoot in Georgia and why you chose to work with the Atlanta Braves?
Wiesler: It was originally the Yankees and Braves, but the Yankees would not agree to let us to use them, because in order to have a number one draft pick you had to come in last. So that was not agreeable to them. But the Braves are based in Georgia, which has a great rebate so we were all partially motivated by that as well. I say partially loosely.
Albright: Could you elaborate a little? Because I know some people may not be aware of these tax incentives that some states offer.
Wiesler: Yeah so Atlanta offers some great tax incentives for production, which is why there are so many films being made. I think it is close to 30 % in some areas. The Braves were amazing and said “you can use us and everything.” Offices, fields, everything we needed. They were amazing and that is why we ended up using the Braves and shooting in Georgia.
Albright: Randy, it seems like this is a natural rebuttal to Moneyball in a lot of ways. Your script brings in the human element to baseball and also the sensory experience of hearing the way the sound of the bat and the ball. I feel like baseball has sort of become an algorithm in a lot of ways and you emphasize all of these other elements that I found really refreshing. Also at the same time you have this really interesting critique of love and relationships. For instance, there is one line from the movie where a character says ‘things look really good on paper’, but obviously it is a bit more complicated than that. Can you elaborate on some of those themes?
Brown: I wrote the script before Michael Lewis even wrote the book for Moneyball, so the idea that this is the answer to Moneyball is ironic, I wrote it before Moneyball. So, it just turned out that way that the perception is this is the quick answer to Moneyball. As I wrote more and more drafts I wanted to explore the notion that when people get older, they’re devalued in many ways and most often unfairly, so I thought that was interesting too. Now there is so much technology, and here’s a guy that knows nothing about technology but he is obviously skilled with what he does. So hopefully some of those themes came through as well.
Alright: You also create this really rich analogy or metaphor with the phrase, “trouble with the curve.” It seems to be that every character in the film sort of has trouble with their own curve, right?
Brown: I’m so happy they kept the title, because when we set up the script the first thing I heard from Rob was ‘marketing wanted to change the title.’ Because it was apparently so hard to remember, and nobody knew what it was. I kind of enjoyed the fact that it’s a baseball term and beyond that it’s a metaphor for a lot of issues in life as well.
Wiesler: I love how it also celebrates back to what you were saying about what’s on paper. Greg is also saying to Mickey, ‘we are perfect on paper’, and Gus is being encouraged to do everything with the computer. This film celebrates the human instinct and intuition which is ageless and sexless.