Moneyball: 8 Actors Who Should Have Played Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane

Matt TruebloodSenior Analyst ISeptember 22, 2011

Moneyball: 8 Actors Who Should Have Played Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane

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    Moneyball will hit theaters Friday, as perhaps the most anticipated sports movie in Hollywood history. Brad Pitt will portray Billy Beane, having been linked with the role from the beginning and having personally helped the film survive several near-abortions, rewrites and delays.

    Pitt is a stud actor, a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale for the industry. He can do it all, and he looks to have put together a really compelling character here. The movie should be well worth the price of admission, and Pitt's performance is bound to be lots of fun.

    But what if it weren't Pitt? What if the project's developers had chosen a different path? The movie might never have been made, of course. But if it had, could it have been as good (or even better) with someone else playing the Oakland Athletics GM? It says here that it could.

    Here are eight men who should have played Beane, or at least gotten a long look from the studio.

8. Billy Bob Thornton

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    If Beane were 10 years older and the film made 10 years sooner, this would have been a perfect fit. Beane bears a striking resemblance to a much younger Thornton, which is a huge plus: One of the arresting features of Billy Crystal's 61* was the physical resemblance of lead actors Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane to the film's key subjects, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.

    Other than facial features, Thornton would bring sporting cinema savvy to the role. He starred in both the remade Bad News Bears and in Friday Night Lights, albeit in less intellectual roles than this one, whereas Pitt admitted to Sports Illustrated this week that he knows relatively little about baseball.

7. Leonardo DiCaprio

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    DiCaprio would have to put away his East Coast accent set and try to muster a smooth Californian spill, but in general, he would be well-suited to this role.

    Few actors in show business do the mental reveal (the exposition of an idea too brilliant for anyone else to have yet wrapped their heads around it) as well as DiCaprio does.

    Since this movie figures to be 90 percent mental revelation, the role seems to have been cast just for him.

6. Kevin Costner

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    Just kidding! Good Lord. Could you imagine? 

    Costner would have been easily the worst and least watchable part of the movie if he had been cast, but then again, he was the worst and least watchable part of Field of Dreams and that worked out all right.

    He was equally abysmal in For Love of the Game and Bull Durham, but hey, experience is experience, right?

5. Justin Timberlake

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    Repressed athleticism in every movement? Check.

    Ability to look cool without trying to look cool? Check.

    Underrated acting chops and comfort in both dialogue and monologue? Check.

    TImberlake is actually a very versatile actor and a bright guy. He could have pulled off the role, though he's a bit young for it. He might have been better cast as the Paul DePodesta character who is not Paul DePodesta, Jonah Hill's Peter Brand.

4. John Cusack

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    Cusack can act. He's funny, engaging and quick-witted. He fits the mold and he loves the game. The only problem I can see is this:

    John Cusack is a damn irritating nostalgic. He comes to Chicago Cubs games (mostly when they're winning, by the way) and talks about them the same way he talks about love and rock and roll in High Fidelity.

    It doesn't fit at all with the spirit of Moneyball, and it's hard to imagine Cusack sagely setting aside that inner Billy Crystal in order to deliver a more spot-on performance. He is always up for some old-fashioned intellectual snobbery, though, so maybe it could work out.

3. Bradley Whitford

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    Bradley Whitford has been playing Billy Beane for years; he just never knew it.

    On The West Wing and in many other places, Whitford has given brilliant performances as an ideologue with a heart, the kind of guy you pull for even though he's at his wits' end trying to hold the world together with string and some daring scheme.

    Whitford oozes the nervous energy, short temper and sharp wit that define Beane, especially as described by Michael Lewis in the book that inspired this whole endeavor. 

    Incidentally, Whitford has also done his best work with Aaron Sorkin, who co-wrote the final version of the screenplay.

2. Matt Damon

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    If Pitt captures Beane's confidence, even his arrogance, Damon could do an even better job of getting across Beane's frustration and self-doubt.

    Both are present in the character Lewis presents in the book, but it's always been hard for Pitt to play characters without total control over their operations and surroundings.

    Damon is more at home in that arena, and could deliver the same dynamism to Beane's accomplishments without losing any of the feeling when the bumps in the road hit.

1. Rob Lowe

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    Another Sorkin guy, Lowe looks as much like Beane today as anyone they could have gotten. Lowe also shares Beane's easy athleticism and litheness.

    He can play the neurotic but widely admired control freak as well as anyone in the business, and he delivers a Sorkinian soliloquy with as healthy a blend of reason and passion as anyone ever has.

    The movie needs those moments to hit the mark, and hit it hard, and while Pitt surely did a great job, Lowe was the perfect man for the gig.