L.A.'s new skipper akin to a veteran film director
Most would argue that Hollywood is a basketball town. Courtside seats at the Staples Center, where the Lakers recently played in the NBA Finals for the fifth time since 2000, often draw more photo ops than a tentpole premiere.
Nevertheless, the Dodgers are aiming to challenge the Lakers’ title as the most Hollywood-friendly franchise.
The Dodgers aren’t exactly the new kids in town. In fact — like the movie studios before them — they ditched their East Coast base decades ago and reinvented themselves in the refracted glow of Tinseltown, and today will receive an Award of Excellence star from the Hollywood Historic Trust and Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
Fifty years removed from their Brooklyn roots, the Dodgers have a movie-ready man at the helm with veteran manager Joe Torre, who also left behind the Big Apple — after amassing four World Series rings with the Yankees, no less — in favor of sunny Southern California.
And if Torre is akin to the star director, he finds himself surrounded by a cast of young, promising but relatively unknown players. Sound familiar? It’s one of the more enduring strategies in the film business: Anchor a project with a proven helmer and assemble a group of cost-effective thesps (think Francis Ford Coppola and the cast of “The Outsiders” or, more recently, Michael Bay and the onscreen talent for “Transformers”).
“With Joe Torre, you have an above-the-title name,” says Jeff Blake, Sony Pictures’ worldwide marketing and distribution topper. “And with the Dodgers, you have one of the most marketable brands. Everything in Hollywood is about branding. When you have a brand like the Dodgers, you feel like you’re opening ‘Spider-Man 3’ or ‘Indy 4.’ ”
Even more impressive to the executive is what he considers the team’s home-field advantage.
“When you’re launching a movie, you’re always concerned with where your show plays,” he explains. “The Dodgers have a big advantage in that they play in the best theater in the world in Dodger Stadium.”
But even still, there’s room for tweaking. Blake, a self-described Chicago Cubs fan, says if the Dodgers were a project on Sony’s production slate, he would get the production staff to beat the team’s third act into shape.
“Sports is entertainment, and even with a baseball, you have to think of the game as having three acts,” he notes. “You gotta give (the fans) a little bit of pop at the end. The Dodgers had that for a while with (relief pitcher) Eric Gagne. No one was thinking about (leaving early to beat the) traffic when he began to warm up.”
So, with a tighter third act, the Dodgers could conceivably dethrone the Lakers as Hollywood’s home team.
“They’ll be fine as long as they stay in the playoff race,” says Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. “They are enjoying record attendance. … They’re one franchise I have no worries about.”
And if Hollywood ever greenlights a project about the storied club, who would Selig cast as the Dodgers skipper?
“I’ve known Joe Torre for about 50 years, and I’d have to say Kevin Costner,” he says. “He’s done a lot of baseball stuff, and I think he would be wonderful.”