Everyone is familiar with the story by now: an absurdly talented number one overall pick falls into a devastating drug and alcohol addiction early in his minor league career, is completely out of baseball for several years and then returns to become the superstar he was always supposed to be — winning the MVP and leading his team to two straight World Series appearances.
But despite the fact that his life is essentially the real-life version of the classic baseball flick The Natural, to immortalize Josh Hamilton on the silver screen now as a present-day version of Roy Hobbs seems awfully premature.
Yet that seems to be precisely what tentative producer Basil Iwanyk and writer/director Casey Affleck are planning on doing, even as Hamilton is still in the midst of his remarkable career. Iwanyk, who has produced such films as We Are Marshall, Clash of the Titans and The Town, and Affleck, who has made his mark mostly in acting, but directed the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary I'm Still Here, are said to be currently pitching the story around Hollywood.
Hamilton admittedly did sell the rights to his life's story to Iwanyk and Thunder Road Pictures, so it's not as if he did not sign off on this idea. But the plan to bring Hamilton's as-yet unfinished story, as movie-ready as the narrative is, to a cinema near you still does not seem quite right.
The overwhelmingly important question stemming from the fact that he's still playing, of course, is where and how would the movie end? Arguably the most important decision to be made in a movie based on actual events is when to cut the narrative off. Without a clear and logical ending point, the movie ends up meandering around from event to event until it just kind of ends. It's not so much a narrative as a collection of anecdotal scenes all strung together.
And in Hamilton's case, to this moment in time, there is no clear and logical ending point. He has seemingly reached the pinnacle of his comeback so many times that it has become effectively impossible to ever declare his redemption fully completed, at least from a narrative standpoint.
Maybe Affleck would decide to end the story after Hamilton's successful comeback season with the Reds in 2007. That, however, would be to ignore his eruption the next season with the Rangers, when he finished seventh in MVP voting and put on that legendary show in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium.
Maybe Affleck would decide to end it after that season, as many writers declared at the time that the book on Hamilton's journey back was closed. As it turned out, however, 2008 was merely just another chapter, as Hamilton's brilliant 2010 MVP season topped even that.
So maybe Affleck halts the movie there. You can't get much higher than winning the MVP and going to a World Series, right? Again, wrong — Hamilton nearly pulled off a Hobbsian miracle by hitting a potentially World Series-winning home run in the 10th inning the next year, and with a strained groin no less, in yet another Natural parallel.
That would have been a perfect Hollywood ending, if Hamilton's two-run bomb to center hadn't been rendered moot by the Cardinals' eventual comeback. But it was, and that simply opened the door for 2012 to top everything that had come before.
With Hamilton currently making a serious run at the Triple Crown, and Texas looking poised for yet another World Series run, this may prove to be the year that would provide a good stopping point. But if it's not, then what?
Where could you end it then? End it too soon and you ignore his much-publicized alcohol relapses, which illustrate the struggles he still faces. End it too late, and you run the risk of having wasted a logical conclusion halfway through the narrative.
Some may argue that there is nothing wrong with this approach, citing The Blind Side as an example of a movie made while the main character's career was still being played out.
There is a major difference, however, between Hamilton's story and that of Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher. Oher's story focused mainly on the relationship between him and his adoptive family, so it made sense to end the movie roughly around the time the offensive lineman headed off to college.The focus of Hamilton's story — his fall from grace and subsequent dramatic rise from the ashes — demands a much more comprehensive look at the events in his life.
If Hamilton's story is made into a movie now, before his career is actually over, it would be rushing into a movie that would likely be made more powerful and compelling with the perspective of Hamilton's entire career. That rushed version might make more money and better capitalize on Hamilton's current popularity — but it would be doing a disservice to his life's remarkable story.
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