Why do so many bad films get made about sport? The American Film Institute includes just two, Raging Bull and Rocky, in its chart of the 100 finest US movies. Imdb's democratically compiled "top 250" contains just two more, in the shape of The Hustler and The Wrestler. And that's only if you count wrestling as a proper sport.
The question seems especially relevant since Brad Pitt and Steven Soderbergh this week suffered the crushing indignity of having their new baseball film, Moneyball, cancelled. It was days from going into production when the studio pulled the plug. Dozens of actors and hundreds of production staff are now suddenly left in the lurch.
Calling off movies at the last minute is a costly and embarrassing move, so this is big news. Reports say the studio's head honcho, Amy Pascal, was unimpressed by Soderbergh's final script, which had already undergone extensive re-writes. At the weekend, she decided that – Pitt or no Pitt – she didn't feel comfortable investing $50m.
It's not often that an Oscar-winning director gets told his screenplay isn't wanted. So I can only guess at Soderbergh's reaction. As for Pitt, he can draw only one crumb of comfort: he'll no longer be spending summer on a film set, so the tabloids may ease their relentless speculation about the state of his marriage.
But I digress. Moneyball's troubles lay bare a pertinent fact: most sports films are flops. The arrival of Wimbledon reminds us of that execrable tennis flick of the same name, starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst. And I've still not fully recovered from seeing Hollywood ruin Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, by turning it into a story about Drew Barrymore and baseball.
The irony, of course, is that America loves to tweak real-life sport, adding "time outs" and "sudden deaths" and myriad rules, to virtually guarantee on-field entertainment. Translating that drama to the big screen should be what commentators call a walk in the park. But it usually isn't. Pardon the cliché, but making films can be a funny old game.
One in the Eye for Perez
Perez Hilton, the gossip blogger who has built a career out of upsetting the celebrity classes, spent the week moaning, blogging and Tweeting about being slightly roughed-up on Sunday during a late-night argument with the Black Eyed Peas, the US group fronted by Fergie.
Former victims say he's protesting too much, though. The musician John Mayer responded to his outraged "tweets" with the following: "Last year, Pink kneed me in the nuts outside Chateau Marmont. I was pissing blood for days. Did I make a scene?"Reuse content