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Should Megan Fox and Robert Downey Jr. Appear in Fifty-nine in '84?

There’s already been Hollywood interest in Fifty-nine in ’84, and people sometimes ask me who I’d like to see play the lead characters. Old Hoss Radbourn, the crusty, hard-driving hero at the center of the book, would require somebody who could convey his intense dedication to his craft of pitching, his courage and his fierce loyalty to those he loved, but also his very wry sense of humor and the devilish sparkle in his eye when he does such things as pose for pictures with his middle finger subtly extended.

Radbourn’s a hard drinker. There’s a damn-it-all nonchalance on his outside, but a smoldering intensity inside him, the presence of danger. I think an actor would also have to convey that here’s a man who has been through hell and back.

Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood comes close to Radbourn—he even looks like him. I suppose a younger actor with that spark of danger, intensity and humor would Robert Downey Jr. The intelligence, sarcasm and intensity he conveyed in Iron Man might be ideal for Rad. The struggle he’s undergone in his own life might also fit him for the role.

Of course, it would be important to cast an actor who looks like a ballplayer, who throws and swings a bat like one. I’ve never seen Downey do that, though he certainly carries himself gracefully and was simply brilliant handling the ballet-like physical comedy of Charlie Chaplin, in his Oscar-winning role. The best baseball movies cast guys who can carry it off—Robert Redford in The Natural, John Cusack in Eight Men Out, Dennis Quaid in The Rookie. They were all athletes, believable as professionals, in addition to portraying their characters superbly.

The other lead character is the love of his life, Carrie Stanhope, is a married woman, separated from her husband, trying to raise her young son and running a rather questionable boardinghouse in smoky, dirty, dangerous, 19th-century downtown Providence, where much of the movie would be set.

Carrie was said to be attractive, to dress fashionably, and to personally know every man in the National League. She was said to be a prominent woman in town—I can only imagine how the proprietress of a boardinghouse became prominent. According to one outrageous story, Radbourn won her in a baseball game!

My sense of her is that she is sexy, and very driven to use her sexiness to make a splash, get out of Providence and give her little boy a better life. Supposedly, she did not like Radbourn at first. He was a sour and cantankerous guy, and it took him some trouble to win her over. But she ultimately recognized his greatness, and pushed him to the greatest single-season performance by any pitcher in baseball history.

You’d have to think someone like Megan Fox would be great. There’s that intensely sexy side to her, but also the vibe that she knows how to use it to get ahead, and she’s tough and determined.

I like to think of another actress in the role. I don’t know about the toughness and determination, but I’d certainly like to see her in the movie, just because she’s so gorgeous and simply lights up the screen: Russian-born Mila Kunis, who played the “nice” girl in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Carrie wasn’t Russian—she was born and raised in the factory town Pawtucket, R.I.—but I think Mila could do an excellent job playing her.

by Edward Achorn
by Edward Achorn
In 1884, Providence Grays pitcher Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn won an...

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