EXCLUSIVE: The Trade, a film that tells the true tale of 2 New York Yankees pitchers who caused a national scandal by swapping wives in the sexually-free 1970s, has finally hit the big leagues. Ben Affleck has become attached to direct and potentially star in the Warner Bros film. (Let me say that for a Yankees fan like myself, it would be worth it just to see Ben Affleck, and possibly Matt Damon, forced to wear the New York pinstripes. That has always been considered a potential obstacle for two die-hard Boston Red Sox fans and renowned Yankees haters.) Teammates Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich stunned the country when they disclosed in spring training 1973 that they were trading wives. Peterson had fallen in love with Susanne Kekich and his teammate fell in love with Marilyn Peterson. Fritz and Susanne remain a couple till this day, while Mike and Marilyn drifted apart. Affleck and his former Live Planet partners Matt Damon and Sean Bailey have long been intrigued with the project, with Affleck eyeing the role of Peterson and Damon the role of Kekich.
So why has The Trade suddenly become such a hot property? I’m told a lot of it is the writing of Dave Mandel, best known for Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Mandel agreed to pen the project years ago, but it got stalled over life rights and other issues. By the time those things were cleared, Mandel was well paid and in high demand. He agreed to write the script at the originally contracted (i.e. bargain) price, with the understanding he would get to it when he could. He proved worth the wait, turning in a screenplay that has the feel of a Hal Ashby movie. It made the 2009 Black List.
Though Sean Bailey was the project’s prime mover, he had to leave behind The Trade when he became the Walt Disney Studios president of production. Warner Bros will assign producers, a task that might well go to Affleck and Damon, who are bringing their MRC producing deal to the studio. Affleck’s Dazed And Confused director, Richard Linklater, recently expressed interest in directing, but now I’m told Affleck wants to work with Mandel on a rewrite, with the intention of helming it himself and possibly playing Peterson. Affleck is on a directing roll, first with a strong first impression as a writer/director on Gone Baby Gone, and more recently on the completed Warner Bros film The Town, which he co-wrote and directed and which stars Jon Hamm and Blake Lively.