--HUSTLE AND BUSTLE ESPN will produce two biopics this year.
Hustle, the story of Pete Rose, will debut on Sept. 25. Most of
the film takes place from 1986 to '89, when the only playing Rose
did was with bookies. "I guess you can say there's a lot of
baseball when you look at the betting slips, but in terms of
baseball action, no," says ESPN senior vice president of original
entertainment Ron Semiao. The role of Charlie Hustle has yet to
be cast, but the network already has a star in place for its
other movie project: Barry Pepper, who played Roger Maris in
HBO's 61*, will play Dale Earnhardt in 3, which debuts on Dec.
11. "When we approached Barry, we found out that he was a huge
NASCAR fan," says Semiao. "Getting the opportunity to play a
legend really interested him."
--SPHERE MADNESS More than two years after Barry Bonds hit his
record 73rd home run comes Up for Grabs, a documentary premiering
at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, on March 14.
The film follows the fate of the ball from the moment it landed
in the arcade area of Pac Bell, where Alex Popov claimed he
caught it and had it ripped away by Patrick Hayashi. Popov, 37,
took Hayashi, 36, to court, and the movie's trial footage
displays the absurd comic qualities of a Christopher Guest film.
In one scene witnesses try to reenact what happened using Popov's
glove. But the film also is a lesson in human frailty. While
Popov at first seems the victim, he morphs into a selfish
attention-seeker who refuses Hayashi's offer to split ownership
of the ball. When the judge orders what amounts to joint custody,
an auction brings a mere $450,000. It's far less than the
millions Popov had expected and leaves him thousands of dollars
in debt. In some ways, it's the ending you want. --S.P.