The Film World’s Manny Ramirez

Chicago-Cubs-Manny-Ramirez

There are a lot of similarities between the sports world and the film world. After reading the 19th article on Manny Ramirez in the last week, Chris Neumer asked the question: who is the film world’s Manny Ramirez? Stumped’s intrepid writers get to the bottom of this. The result may surprise you.

by Chris Neumer

Everywhere I’ve turned during the last month, I’ve seen Manny Ramirez. The man and his dreadlocks almost single-handedly knocked (swept) my Cubs out of the playoffs. When the Cubs’ infield wasn’t booting routine grounders, Ramirez was swatting the ball around Roy Hobbs style. Every time I visit espn.com or open a newspaper, I have to see articles and news specials on Ramirez, his amazing ability to hit a thrown ball, the size of his yet to be signed new contract, his relationship with super agent Scott Boras, his problem with dandruff and on and on. After reading Bill Simmons’ column on Ramirez that clocked in a few pages longer than Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, I sighed and said, “Thank God I don’t have to deal a Manny Ramirez-like figure in the film world.” I paused for a second and began pondering the question I had inadvertently asked myself: who is the film world’s Manny Ramirez?

-Chris Neumer


Beginnings

THE FIRST IDEAS COME OUT

CHRIS NEUMER: Manny Ramirez is an interesting figure because he is simultaneously one of the best players in the game and one of the most frustratingly childish. It’s not that he’s a bad teammate per se, it’s that I’m not aware of any other true baseball greats who always seemed to get injured when they were unhappy with their playing time or contract status, ala Manny. And it’s not that immature, unprofessional behavior isn’t present in Hollywood, it’s that the people who most often display this aren’t usually the $25 million men.

The reason that Will Smith and Harrison Ford are at the absolute top of their games is precisely because they are at the absolute top of their games. They’re not throwing tantrums, pouting and acting in such a manner that causes their co-stars laugh and say, “That’s just Will being Will.” Off the top of my head, the closest I can come to a Manny Ramirez figure in the entertainment world is the fictional character of Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock… and even that’s not particularly a good choice because on the show Jordan’s career has been sinking with a Joan Cusack-like speed for a number of years.

DAVID DELHOMME: Over exposed? Mad talent? I have two words: BRIT-NEY.

JOANNA STARNAWSKI: I really am not a fan cross-referencing baseball and film… given that the extent of my knowledge on baseball is that both the Cubs and Sox play in Chicago. So please work with me and my ignorance in regards to baseball. When you say Babe Ruth I think of a candy bar.

That said, from the research that I’ve done, my first stab is to suggest that Lindsay Lohan is film’s Manny Ramirez.* She doesn’t have the talent level that Ramirez does—I don’t consider her a terrible actress, but she has been in more than her fair share of flops, and almost single-handedly brought down Georgia Rule. Nevertheless, she keeps working. Despite this, we still hear other actors, directors and producers who complain about her somewhat lacking work ethic. When she’s going great, everyone talks about how she’s a hard worker. When things are more iffy, we get to read about her road rage rampages, love of coke and rehab stints.

* Britney would have worked if she was in film. The only video I can see of her is on TMZ of her spitting at people.

CHRIS NEUMER: Joanna brings up a halfway decent point with her whacked-out Lindsay Lohan being a good fit with Manny. Halfway. I can’t overlook the fact that in the last two years, Lohan hasn’t had anything remotely resembling a hit and sunk to playing a stripper with multiple personalities in I Know Who Killed Me. After some further thought, I realized that a crucial part of who Ramirez is involves the bridges he has burned in the past. Boston was so eager to get rid of Ramirez that they paid for his entire salary this year. Not many people realize that the Dodgers didn’t have to pay a cent to Ramirez this season. A very necessary component of a cinematic Ramirez has to be that certain people (or companies) will not work with the person again or that there is an entire fan base that absolutely hates the person while others fawn over him. The latter line of thinking got me to George Lucas.

Lucas made lots of people happy in the seventies and eighties with his work on Star Wars and Indiana Jones, just like Manny did in Boston (and Cleveland before that). Then came the Star Wars prequels in the late nineties. A large portion of the diehard Star Wars fans hate Lucas for the irreparable damage he did to the series. Younger audiences speak of Lucas in warmer tones… probably because they didn’t know how awful it was watching the entire Jedi council not realize that a Sith lord was sitting fifteen feet away from them.** Studios are still lining up to work with Lucas though, just as everyone is in baseball for Ramirez, save for the Royals and Marlins.

(Now, of course, I’m wondering what the cinematic equivalents are of the Royals and Marlins).

** You can feel a planet blowing up while traveling through light speed AND teaching a young Jedi to use a light-saber, but you can’t feel the otherworldly dark lord of the force who is standing in front of you talking?


Missteps

Mickey Rourke, Benecio Del Toro, a dead guy and, dear God, Shaquille O’neal’s names surface

CHRIS DeSALVO: Manny Ramirez is frighteningly one thing: Clutch. It doesn’t matter if the world’s busting apart at the seams, or his team is irreversibly overrated (this year’s Los Angeles Dodgers). The man can hit. It doesn’t matter if the pitcher’s on the mound dealing some sick cheese or throwing knuckle balls worthy of Tim Wakefield, when Manny comes up in the late innings, his team down by a few runs, he tends to prove why he worth every penny of his impressively high salary.

In Hollywood, it’s rare to find a similarly talented thespian whose baggage all but disappears each time his or her number’s called.

Though Joanna had her moments with her Lindsay Lohan comparison, Lohan is as relevant in the long-term as Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes (to stick with the baseball analogies). It doesn’t matter if “Manny’s being Manny” or someone else entirely, Ramirez always delivers when he’s been asked.

The Cleveland Indians are sadly a step or two ahead of the Cubs in terms of winning, something that kills me given the magnitude of their enormous suckitude in the eighties. When Brook Jacoby is your star, things are not right. (Still they’ve done better over the last 100 years than the Cubs, but my therapist says it’s too soon to get into this). Ten years after the Jacoby, Andre Thornton and (young) Joe Carter Indians inspired the film world to make a movie about how bad they were, Major League, Ramirez brought them to a World Series.***

A few years later, Ramirez helped the Red Sox to their first title since 1918. He contributed to another Red Sox title last year.

Ramirez is also a bitch. A little bitch whose attitude rivals that of a hungry, hungry hippo, only feeling loved or respected when he’s gobbling up the Benjamins. That being said, no one’s hit more timely doubles, or home runs than Ramirez has when it’s mattered. And enjoying Ramirez’s clutch hitting is worth putting up with his status as a bitch. Most of the time.

Hollywood has only one worthy example: Mickey Rourke.

Rourke has been in a number of impressive films, Sin City, 9 1/2 Weeks, Body Heat, Barfly, The Wrestler, but he’s also had some leading roles in films you’ve never heard of like Thursday, Shergar, Shades and They Crawl. The latter films are of the direct-to-DVD variety.

Though Manny’s played in ten postseasons, he’s also been sent home early at the conclusion of six campaigns, despite batting .331 collectively in these lackluster seasons. Manny hits well when his teams do poorly and it’s safe to say Rourke acts the crap out of films no one will ever see.

*** Yes, he had Jim Thome’s help, but Ramirez hit when he was needed, unlike Thome, who sports a .221 batting average in October.

CHRIS NEUMER: Mickey Rourke? About the only thing he has in common with Manny is his initials. Rourke starred in Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. Ramirez was protecting David Ortiz in the Boston lineup. Rourke co-starred in a movie opposite Dennis Rodman. Ramirez was winning World Series titles. Plural. Rourke pissed away his talent, Manny put his talent on display on the world’s largest stage, kicked ass and is now talking about signing a $150 million dollar deal at age 36. Rourke may be the cinematic Mark Prior, but he can’t be film’s Ramirez. He’s not good, he doesn’t make money and no one really likes him.

I think at this point, the search for a cinematic Ramirez should turn to finding an A-list star with a substance problem. This person shows up on set late, does drugs/alcohol while in his trailer, ultimately angers everyone at the studio with his behavior, they vow never to work with him again and then when his film finally opens it nabs a huge opening weekend. Richard Pryor, circa 1977?

While this may be viable—Pryor was a box office star—I don’t feel comfortable calling a dead man the cinematic Manny Ramirez. Who has a coke problem in Hollywood now?

Besides Lindsay Lohan…

JOANNA STARNAWSKI: What about Benicio Del Toro. He has an Oscar, is super talented and, uh, played a cokehead on screen in 21 Grams. Yeah, I’m stretching.

Check that. Now I’m thinking Robert Downey Jr.

EMILY MOSS: You know, I thought about Robert Downey Jr, too. The problem with calling him the film world’s Manny Ramirez though is that he’s always been an almost A-lister. I mean, everyone knows who he is and everyone knows he’s talented but for the last ten years, it seemed like every time he was going to become the next big actor he ended up in rehab (or someone’s living room) scaring away uber-fame once again.

JOANNA STARNAWSKI: Iron Man did really well at the box office. It’s also the top-selling Blu-ray disc of all time. Maybe Robert Downey Jr. ’08 is Manny Ramirez circa his first World Series trip in ’95.

CHRIS DeSALVO: Today, while casually surfing the Internet for useful plumbing information, I got bored and began reading recent clippings on the Dodger’s slugger. Despite having told reporters he didn’t wish to “discuss the past”, Ramirez called out the Red Sox and said that it was “good” that they were beaten by the Rays.****

This is a bold statement. Whether or not this kind of comment is shocking is open to debate, but one thing’s for certain: the limelight certainly suits the faux-reluctant superstar.

This got me to thinking. With the recent list of Hollywood A-listers this group has been mentioned, I wondered whether or not these subjects needed to be authentic thespians. After careful consideration, I decided this needn’t be the case, and have thereby selected Shaquille O’Neal as a potential Hollywood version of Manny.

Think about it. They both love the cameras despite insinuating otherwise, they are always good for quotes and they both hold alarmingly deceptive grudges against those who have have wronged them (O’Neal vs. Kobe Bryant is entering it’s sixth year, and Ramirez vs. Running Out ground balls had been going on in perpetuity).

Shaq, believe it or not, keeps getting offers to star in films. This makes him (technically) a working actor, and so he fits the qualifications for this discussion. I realize this may be disputed quickly and often, but I’m holding firm on my assertion that Shaquille O’Neal could be the Manny Ramirez of Hollywood. He’s really good at what he does, he holds grudges and he’s also an athlete. Next question.

**** In a brief interview with a reporter for the Web site TMZ.com, Ramirez said he did not watch the Red Sox game, but, when asked his reaction to the Tampa Bay victory, Ramirez replied “Good, good.”

EMILY MOSS: I won’t dignify Shaq’s suggestion with a response other than this: baseball’s Shaquille O’Neal is Ryne Sandberg, a once great star who stopped working about ten years ago. Done.

Back to the ‘real’ suggestions: I can’t believe this didn’t occur to me until just now, the film world’s Manny Ramirez is Russell Crowe.

He’s super talented and a big box office draw, but he’s also a giant, hot-tempered, pain in the ass to work with.


The Answer

The Film World’s Manny Ramirez is… Tom Cruise

CHRIS NEUMER: Russell Crowe is a good thought, but he’s a pain in the ass as presented by the media, not the people he works with or who pay him. I also like what Joanna was obviously suggesting: the thought of Iron Man being Robert Downey Jr’s half season with the Dodgers.

I think I can do better that this though: I have an answer (the answer?) that seems destined to end the search for film’s Manny Ramirez.

In my last comments, I wrote the following:

I think at this point, the search for a cinematic Ramirez should turn to an A-list star with a substance problem. This person shows up on set late, does drugs/alcohol while in his trailer, ultimately angers everyone in the studio with his behavior, they vow never to work with him again and then when his film finally opens it nabs a huge opening weekend.

That scenario seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Then it hit me: it seemed familiar because, save for the substance problem and the showing up late, that scenario was exactly what happened to Tom Cruise and Paramount just before the release of Mission: Impossible 3.

Cruise had a lot of diva behaviors that people upstairs dealt with because of his profitable name. He also had a very cushy deal with Paramount. When Cruise started jumping up and down on couches and spouting off about Scientology and post-partem depression medications, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone had had enough; he vowed not to renew Cruise’s deal… even though Cruise was an enormously successful box office draw, made Paramount gobs of cash and was viewed as one of the best actors in Hollywood. So Redstone cut him loose, realizing that, with Cruise, it was addition by subtraction.

Boston’s front office made snippy comments to the media about Ramirez, Viacom’s people did the same for Cruise. No one in Boston was sorry to see Ramirez the Man gone. They’d miss his production, but had grown super weary of his, well, being Manny. No one at Paramount was sorry to see Cruise the Man gone either. They’d miss his production (though that had been slipping, albeit slightly) but had grown super weary of his, well, being Tom.

I guess the only real difference between these scenarios is that after being ushered out the door by the Red Sox, Ramirez went on an other-worldly hitting spree for the Dodgers, single handedly carrying his team to the second round of the playoffs. After being kicked off the Paramount lot, Cruise set up shop at UA and headlined the enormous flop, Lions to Lambs, a movie that only grossed $4 million. Keanu Reeves earned that amount before breakfast yesterday.

CHRIS DeSALVO: Cruise then resurrected his career playing the Jewish film mogul, Les Grossman, in Tropic Thunder. Though Cruise was in the film very briefly, his presence was duly noted as being not only necessary, but hilarious. This could be easily be equated to Ramirez’s .400 regular season batting average (and .500 post season average) in his brief stint w/ the Dodgers. These scenarios sound eerily familiar. So, I guess I’d have to (reluctantly) back Mr. Neumer in this case.

EMILY MOSS: I too have to begrudging agree with Tom Cruise. I guess a Gary Oldman in dreadlocks (think True Romance) mention isn’t going to hold much water at this point.

And just like that, I had my answer. Tom Cruise is the film world’s Manny Ramirez. In retrospect, I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t see this sooner; once the specter of Cruise came up, it was hard to see anyone else in the role. I also can’t believe I actually threw out George Lucas as a possibility either, but it happens. Now to contemplate who the Kansas City Royals of the film world are.

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