It’s a good day when an acting legend steps back in front of the camera.
According to the LA Times, Robert Redford will be starring in an as-yet untitled film about Branch Rickey, the man brave and cool enough to sign Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Brian Helgeland will write and direct the film.
Redford will be playing Rickey, and the film will focus less on the integration of baseball, and more on the complicated relationship between Rickey and Robinson. “No one really knows the Rickey part, the political maneuvers and the partnership they had to share,” Redford told The LA Times. “It’s the story underneath the story you thought you knew.”
I imagine, however, we’ll get a few “watershed” scenes stressing just what an enormous deal this was for the sport and for the black community. You can’t. It’s dramatic stuff to see teams refusing to play on the field with him, or players physically assaulting him.
It’s funny, I just wrote a piece questioning the need or desire for a Martin Luther King Jr. film, but this is the kind of historical film I can get behind. It’s a smaller story, but it’s a powerfully symbolic one, and more manageable for a filmmaker to tackle. It’s more appealing to audiences, too. As I’m writing this, I’m painfully aware that I’m championing an African-American story that stars a white man. Redford aside, I often think it’s the little stories that are important — the guys like Robinson and Rickey who are brave enough to put themselves out there and force the world to deal with another human being. I firmly believe we need more stories focusing on the African-Americans who stood up and fought back. Perhaps this will encourage more intimate and important stories, and not necessarily try to tackle the awesome legacy of someone like King.