Knoxville interested in toplining project

NEW YORK — In a mid-six-figure deal, Warner Bros. Pictures has bought a baseball-themed pitch — with a whopping curveball — titled “Stolen Season” for Jon Shestack and Evan Astrowsky to produce.

Johnny Knoxville is reportedly interested in toplining the project.

“Stolen” borrows a page from the real-life childhood of former Baltimore Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey, who fell under the spell of charismatic coach John Jennings when he was 13 and playing on a Southern California Pony League baseball team in 1963. By the time the summer was over, Jennings had robbed a string of 20 banks up and down the California coast, using the team’s travel as cover.

John Raffo will write the screenplay. He also penned “The Walk On” and “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.”

Warners’ Lynn Harris is the executive in charge with creative exec Matt Reilly.

No director is yet attached.

Astrowsky and Raffo brought the project to Shestack, who has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures, after Astrowsky secured the life rights to Dempsey’s story. Astrowsky’s credits include “Cabin Fever” and “Mini’s First Time.”

Last month, Shestack (“Air Force One”) sold the pitch “Skyport” to Warners. He also is completing “The Wrong Element,” starring Harrison Ford, for the studio.

Knoxville, who stars in Warners’ “Dukes of Hazzard” next month, would play the role of the coach in “Stolen.” (Knoxville himself was a serious baseball player in high school.)

“It’s just a great story about a kid who needs a mentor and finds one, even though it turns out that the mentor was terribly flawed. The coach was one of those cigar-smoking, poker-playing, handsome guys who lived larger than he could support and started down this very perilous path,” Shestack told Daily Variety.

“But he was a hell of a coach,” Shestack said.

Dempsey, who was the MVP of the 1983 World Series and is now first base coach for the Orioles, was one of seven players on the Pony League team who went on to play in the majors, including Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Robin Yount.

Eventually, Dempsey learned that Jennings was the “Mutt” of the infamous “Mutt and Jeff” bank robbing duo that eluded L.A. police in 1963.

The FBI ultimately arrested Jennings, who was sent to prison. Upon his release, he died of cancer.

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