Red Bird Cinema producing baseball drama

Red Bird Cinema has tapped Billy Bob Thornton and Edward Burns to star in baseball drama “Three Nights,” based on Buzz Bissinger’s book “Three Nights In August” about a three-game series in 2003 between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs.

Bissinger (“Friday Night Lights”) wrote the screenplay and David Anspaugh (“Rudy” and “Hoosiers”) will direct in what will be a fictionalized version of the book — which focused on the strategic decisions by Cardinal manager Tony La Russa.

The “Three Nights” project is the first to emerge from a just-announced strategic relationship between Red Bird and Jeff Waxman, Burns and Aaron Lubin of Marlboro Road Gang Prods. to co-produce four projects. Red Bird was founded in 2007 by Kevin Pollak, businessman John Loar and La Russa (who retired from baseball last October after the Cardinals won the World Series) with Thornton later joining as a partner.

Loar told Variety that Red Bird is aiming to shoot the project as early as this fall with Thornton portraying the team’s pitching coach (Dave Duncan) and Burns playing the starting catcher (Mike Matheny) — though he added that the story will be fictionalized.

Anspaugh said Thornton approached him long before Bissinger began to work on the screenplay two years ago. “I always thought that the movie would work better as a fictionalized story,” he added.

Loar said he was encouraged by the success of “Moneyball,” which focused on the 2002 Oakland A’s and general manager Billy Beane. “Ours isn’t really about the front office but it’s very helpful to us that a baseball movie did so well,” he added.

Burns was last seen in “Friends with Kids” and “Man on a Ledge.” Thornton, a lifelong Cardinals fans, narrated “The 2006 World Series Film,” a DVD chronicling the Cardinals’ championship season.

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