Coming to Sundance a number of years ago with The Sessions – which picked up the festival’s Audience Award and a Special Jury Prize for ensemble acting – director Ben Lewin is back at the fest this year with an entirely different film, spy thriller The Catcher Was a Spy.
Starring Paul Rudd, Jeff Daniels, Paul Giamatti and Mark Strong—among other actors in an A-list ensemble—The Catcher Was a Spy tells the remarkable, little-known true story of Moe Berg (Rudd), a professional baseball player who became a spy in service of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA, during World War II, sent out to stop German scientist Werner Heisenberg (Strong) from building an atomic bomb for the Nazis.
An erudite, Jewish Ivy League graduate—and closeted gay man—who spoke nine languages and was a regular guest on a popular TV quiz show, Berg was an incredibly multifaceted character far removed from Rudd’s recent efforts that would allow him to stretch as an actor, as he worked with language coaches and tried to tap into a man who wouldn’t let himself be known.
“It’s a crazy story and it’s a true story, and he really is one of the more fascinating figures I’ve ever read about,” Rudd said of Berg, sitting down with Lewin yesterday at Deadline’s Sundance Studio. “I read this script a while ago and I never forgot about it. I knew nothing about Moe Berg, but I can’t believe he existed, and the opportunity to try and discover something about the guy was absolutely appealing.”
Rudd certainly isn’t the only one stretching himself of late—with Catcher and his upcoming dramatic comedy Please Stand By, Lewin is throwing himself into the unknown with each new endeavor. “I’m curious as to how many different stories I can tell,” Lewin said. “The only thing I feel I’m good at is being a storyteller, and I’m at this point intrigued by how many things I could do that I’m not supposed to be doing.”
To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with Paul Rudd and director Ben Lewin, click above.
The Deadline Studio at Sundance 2018 is presented by Hyundai. Special thanks to Calii Love.