When assuming the high profile mantle of a beloved superhero, it is important for an actor to balance these franchise instalments with work of a very different kind, in order to remain relevant and sustain a career beyond spandex. This seems to be a lesson that Ant-Man’s Paul Rudd is taking seriously – not least with the news that he has been cast as the lead in the upcoming period drama, The Catcher Was A Spy.
Adapted by Academy Award nominee Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan) from the bestselling 1994 book, The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life Of Moe Berg by Nicholas Dawidoff, the film will be directed by Ben Lewin (The Sessions), and will feature Paul Rudd in the role of Moe Berg – linguist, lawyer, baseball player and spy. The story tells the tale of an extraordinary life, which saw Berg born in New York City in 1902, and go on to study modern languages at both New York University and Princeton. He also graduated from law school, and became a Major League baseball player.
When the United States joined World War II, Berg wanted to make his contribution to the war effort and felt his language skills could be put to good use – so he spent time working overseas for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. Seeking greater involvement, he then applied to work for the Office of Strategic Services, which was the intelligence organization that preceded the CIA. Here, he undertook various missions in Europe, specifically designed to determine the status of the nuclear programme of Germany.
While that all sounds very mysterious and heroic, it is important to note that this particular book – of the numerous books written about Moe Berg – takes a more dispassionate view of the man, particularly when it comes to his later years. In retirement from baseball and espionage, Berg became something of a drifter – unemployed and surviving by virtue of the kindness of his siblings and friends. There were also allegations of troubling misconduct, with suspicions arising about his personal behaviour. The secretive nature of his life continued in death, however, as his ashes were supposedly buried in an undisclosed spot near Jerusalem on the instructions of his now deceased sister. Whether the film adaptation will encompass these later chapters remains to be seen.
For Paul Rudd, this is an excellent opportunity to indulge his ample skills that reach beyond comedic improvisations, romantic comedies and superheroes. As challenging as those things are, we have glimpsed the relatively unexplored areas of his dramatic talents – most specifically in 2013’s Prince Avalanche. With that in mind, The Catcher Was A Spy could well be the project that launches Paul Rudd into a whole new range of storytelling.