Justin Lin has bought himself an enormous amount of room to try new things for his next few films as both director and producer. He took the “Fast and Furious” series from being an agreeable little batch of B-movies to the souped-up lunatic musclehead epics that they’ve become, and he turned them into international sensations in the process.
Part of the “secret” of what Lin did so well with that series was the way he cast it as a sort of multi-ethnic Avengers, with lots of people who would never typically play the hero in Hollywood films suddenly front and center. There is an inclusiveness to these movies that is really appealing, and yet it never feels like a political stunt. He just put together a fun ensemble that happened to include more than the standard white faces.
What I find most interesting about the announcement that Justin Lin will be working to turn “The Battered Bastards Of Baseball” into a narrative feature is that Lin bought the rights himself for his production company, Perfect Storm, and managed to shut out Columbia, Fox, and Dreamworks, who were all also chasing the rights.
The documentary version of the story was an audience favorite here at Sundance this year, and one of the first things I heard from almost everyone who saw it was “Wow, that would make a great movie.” That’s not to take anything away from Chapman Way and Maclain Way, the guys who directed the documentary. Obviously, they’ve crafted something compelling if that many people are reacting to the story like this.
If you haven’t read about the movie, it tells the story of Bing Russell and his baseball team the Portland Mavericks. They were the only independently owned team in the country in 1973, and Bing was happy to work outside of the control of the Major League. He put together his team based on open auditions, and they weren’t really like any other “professional” team. They were as entertaining for who they were as how they played, and Bing managed to make a real go of it for a while. His son Kurt (yes, that Kurt Russell) was one of his players. Todd Field was a batboy for the team. They were beloved by many, and it sort of boggles the mind that it took this long for someone to see the potential in the story.
Appropriately enough, it seems that Todd Field is already talking to Lin about writing and directing the film, and if that doesn’t sound like a perfect match, I’m not sure who would be. For Field, it’s a chance to make a film that he’ll be heavily invested in on a personal level, but that also has the potential for a warmth and a sense of humor we haven’t seen in his films so far.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see this one move quickly through development, and I wish them well with it. Now hire Kurt Russell to play his dad and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get one of his best performances ever.