LOS ANGELES — If any team deserves a movie or television deal, it’s the Chicago Cubs.
After breaking their 108-year championship drought last season, the Cubs hit the talk show circuit in a big way, and Hollywood took notice. As the team begins a series in Los Angeles, ESPN employed two die-hard Cubs fans from Chicago who work in Hollywood to help make sense of where the Cubs fit in on the silver screen. We asked a producer to give his take on the Cubs for a potential movie, and a casting director to “cast the Cubs.” Movie buff and Cubs reliever Brian Duensing added his two cents as well.
Producer Nathan Ross’ credits include “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Big Little Lies” and the upcoming “Sharp Objects” (HBO).
“From a producer’s standpoint, it would be amazing to get some of the guys into some narrative,” Ross said. “It’s just a question of, ‘What’s the story?’ The current Cubs have a magnetic appeal not just to Chicagoans or Cubs fans, but seemingly to America as a whole — though maybe not Cardinals or Indians fans — and their youth, looseness and fun appeal can likely translate to another medium.
“Plus, Hollywood historically always loves the ‘underdog factor.’ They’re also a rare franchise that has that ‘rock star’ quality and has touched the zeitgeist (‘Saturday Night Live,’ ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ etc.) not unlike the ’85 ‘Super Bowl Shuffle’ Bears or the 72-10 Bulls with [Michael Jordan], [Scottie] Pippen and [Dennis] Rodman.
“In fantasy casting, you can totally see [Kris] Bryant and [Anthony] Rizzo as your leads — the all-American guys next door — and the cool flashiness of [Javy] Baez and [Addison Russell] up the middle. Jake [Arrieta] as an action star or [Kyle] Schwarber as a general badass possessing superhuman strength à la The Hulk.
“Since last fall — when their profile increase was peaking — until now, I’ve had conversations with some writers and producers who have written Cub-related scripts or project ideas, and they could definitely sell in Hollywood. There are a lot of Chicago transplants in L.A., and consequently Cubs fans. They’re everywhere. Anyway, in the end, an ensemble movie is the way to go. Something which shows how teammates need to rely on each other to win out. Think of a ‘Dirty Dozen’ or ‘Ocean’s Eleven’-type of movie. After seeing ‘Wizard of Lies,’ I would cast Robert De Niro as Joe Maddon.”
Casting director Rachel Tenner’s credits include “Fargo,” the TV series for which she won an Emmy, and many Coen brothers projects, including “A Serious Man” and “No Country for Old Men.”
Tenner has some ideas for roles that fit with certain players’ games and/or identities:
Kris Bryant: “His contemporary is Chris Pine as Jason Bateman in ‘Identity Thief’: an everyman trying to make things right in his life. Has the strength to tackle any obstacle, but does it without fanfare.
“For an older role, he also seems to have a very ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ quality, a Jimmy Stewart persona going as well.”
Brian Duensing’s take: “I could see him being Oz in ‘American Pie.’ Like the sentimental, good-guy character. He’s got the eyes for it.”
Anthony Rizzo: “He’s Chris Pratt. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.'” Enough said.
Duensing’s take: “I was going to say Chris Pratt as well. Even like in ‘Jurassic World’ or whatever. Any adventure role like that.”
Javier Baez: “My first thought was that I wanted to see Javy in ‘Hamilton.’ But with his flair and charm, I thought he reminded me of a young Antonio Banderas. So I choose Javy Baez as Antonio Banderas in ‘Zorro.’ Flair, charm and heads into danger without a blink of an eye. And he gets to wear a cape and use a sword, which it seems like Javy might enjoy.”
Jason Heyward: “Easy. Denzel Washington. ‘Remember the Titans.’ Quiet and passionate. Had to honor the seventh game rally during the rain delay.”
Duensing’s take: “Trying to think of a good one thinking about that flap he wears on his helmet. Maybe ‘Robocop’? He’s big and tough. Or Denzel in, like, ‘The Pelican Brief.'”
Jake Arietta: “He looks like he walked right out of an episode of ‘Game of Thrones.’ Not sure which house he belongs in just yet.”
Duensing’s take: “I see him as one of those badass military guys, you know with a big beard. Like in ’13 Hours.’ He would be perfect for that.”
Ben Zobrist: “Ryan Gosling in ‘The Notebook.’ I think that Ben invokes Ryan’s looks and passion in ‘The Notebook’ and highlights the deep love between he and his wife.”
Kyle Hendricks: “Dustin Hoffman in ‘The Graduate.’ Embodies the quiet cerebral determination that Dustin’s character had in the movie. And I can’t deny that I project him to have a hidden mischievous side.”