NEW YORK — New York Yankees pitcher Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez will be the focus of a feature film about to be shopped with Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” star Cuba Gooding Jr. attached to play Hernandez and Antonio Banderas tapped to play his agent Joe Cubas.
A package with rights and the actors is being shepherded by CAA, with studio bidding to start next week. No director is attached, but several A-listers have come forward.
The film will be produced by Vanguard’s John Williams, whose credits include “Seven Years in Tibet.” Banderas, Gooding and Akiva Goldsman will also be named as producers.
The pending screen deal comes less than five months after Hernandez and seven others pushed a makeshift sailboat off the Cuban coastline, surviving for 10 hours before washing up on a remote island in the Bahamas. There they lived on seaweed, crabs and conch for four days before being spotted by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.
The desperate journey seemed an unlikely one because Hernandez, called El Duque, was at one time considered the Michael Jordan of Cuban baseball players, a legendary figure on the national team until the defection of his younger brother Livan, who signed with the Florida Marlins in 1995.
Within a year, El Duque was banned for life from the national team by Fidel Castro, who feared he’d also leave. He was essentially made a pariah and worked in a psychiatric hospital, earning $10 a month.
Hernandez’s link to the major leagues was Joe Cubas, who has helped orchestrate numerous exits by Cuban ballplayers.
After Hernandez was rescued, Cubas fulfilled El Duque’s childhood dream of joining the New York Yankees — and with a four-year deal worth $6.6 million. He subsequently went undefeated in six minor league starts, and dominated in his first Yankee Stadium start. He has not yet lost a game since joining the Yankees.