It’s likely true that every filmmaker’s got a handful of dusty scripts sitting in a desk drawer somewhere that will never be produced, but it’s rare that fans ever get a chance to read one of those scripts and wonder at what might have been. Fans of Spike Lee are getting that chance this week. The writer/director took to Instagram on Sunday to share the script he wrote for an unproduced Jackie Robinson biopic, based on the iconic ball player’s 1972 autobiography, which is appropriately titled I Never Had It Made.
According to Lee, he wanted Denzel Washington to play the lead character, taking on the mantle of the first African American baseball player to break the color barrier and join Major League Baseball. A few years earlier, Washington had starred in Lee’s Malcolm X, but, per Lee, the actor believed he was “too old” to play Jackie Robinson at the time. He might’ve been right: This draft was finished in 1996, so Washington would have been in his early 40s, whereas Robinson became the first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in his late-20s. Interestingly enough, Lee and Washington went on to make another sports movie just a couple years later with He Got Game.
“Don’t worry if you don’t like baseball or sports,” Lee says. “This is a great American story.”
The 155-page script is available through the Dropbox link in Spike Lee’s Instagram page and, at first glance, appears to cover the majority of Robinson’s life, including his college career at UCLA, his time spent in the military, his ascent to the majors, and even his life after baseball. Like many of Lee’s films, we have no doubt it’s an unflinching look at a complex character forced to straddle the racial, cultural, and political lines that exist in 20th century America. If we can’t see it in the theaters, we can at least see it in our heads.
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