EXCLUSIVE: Forty-seven years ago today, one of the most important moments in baseball history was made: Pirates’ player Dock Ellis took to the mound and pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. Ten years later it was revealed that Ellis accomplished that feat while high on LSD. Now the story of Dock Ellis is coming to the big screen with O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) attached to star in the title role of Dock. David Permut, Jeff Kwatinetz and Ice Cube are producing from a script by Joey Poach. They are out to directors now.
Dock is the first project to come from Cube Vision’s strategic partnership with AID Partners, a media investment company founded by Hong Kong entrepreneur Kelvin Wu that calls for Cube Vision to develop its own slate, hire its own screenwriters and then bring fully developed projects to studios.
The role of Dock Ellis is also a meaty one to play for Jackson Jr. The ball player was a colorful character — a highly competitive loudmouth who suffered no fools and called out racism when he experienced it. For instance, when he wore curlers in his hair at a workout, he was forbidden to do so ever again by the MLB Commissioner. Although he complied, he was quick to point out the hypocrisy as the MLB allowed a white player to wear a bad, shoulder-length toupee at the same time.
After a decade-long career in Major League Baseball (he played with the Pirates, Yankees, Athletics, Rangers and Mets), Ellis admitted he had never pitched a game sober and afterwards sought treatment for his alcohol and drug addiction. There is an astute philosophy that every experience you have leads you to what you are truly supposed to be doing in life (in service for others), and that’s exactly what happened here: Because of what he experienced and learned, Ellis dedicated the rest of his life counseling those suffering from substance abuse problems. He specialized in counseling professional athletes.
“Joey Poach’s script is one of the most heartfelt, honest and emotional pieces of material I’ve read in years, and I think the complexities of the character are a perfect fit for O’Shea,” said Permut who enjoyed the success earlier this year as one of the producers of another biopic — Mel Gibson’s Best Picture nominee Hacksaw Ridge based on the life of true hero Desmond Doss. He also has the Jack Black starring comedy The Polka King coming later this year which is also based on a real person in Jan Lewan, the polka king who manipulated people into a Ponzi scheme.
“Part of Cube Vision’s mission is to bring compelling, provocative and timely stories to life,” said Kwatinetz. “With Dock, we feel that now is the right time to tell Dock Ellis’ complex, but powerful, true story and couldn’t be happier to partner with David Permut, whose incredible body of work speaks for itself.”
Ice Cube and Cube Vision aren’t slouches either, having produced the true story of NWA in the critical and box office success Straight Outta Compton which was released in 2015 and collected over $200M worldwide. Jackson Jr., who also starred in the film, is Cube’s son.
Ice Cube, Kwatinetz and company are also delving into sports mogul-dom as well. They pacted with Fox Sports in March of this year to host Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 basketball league throughout the summer on FS1 on Monday nights which gives the sport and the network high-profile programming for its target demographic. The season opener for the league is upcoming on June 25 at Barclays Center. It’s actually pretty brilliant as their league pits former NBA players in 3-on-3, half-court action to culminate in a highly-touted championship game, giving basketball its Monday Night Football moment.
The movie about Dock Ellis will be a co-production between Cube Vision, The Firm, and Permut Presentations.
Jackson Jr. is repped by WME, CubeVision and Ziffren Brittenham. Poach is repped by Kaplan / Perrone Entertainment and Hirsch Wallerstein. Permut is repped by Neil Sacker at Skadden Arps.