Hustle is a television film about baseball player Pete Rose, created by ESPN Films. It was first broadcast on September 25, 2004. The movie follows Rose as he gambled on Major League Baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds, then was caught and banned from baseball for life. The title, Hustle, is a reference to both Rose's gambling problem and his nickname, "Charlie Hustle."
Major League Baseball did not approve the script or cooperate with the producers. They did not give ESPN permission to use the uniforms, logos or trademarks of the Cincinnati Reds.
The job of directing was given to Peter Bogdanovich even though he was not a baseball fan. He was interested in that Pete Rose "is Dostoyevskian, a degenerate gambler. It's intriguing when somebody has an obsession he can't seem to cope with. With all the great things he accomplished, he screwed up his life. It's sad and fascinating."
Bogdanovich thought the story was "very American... We build people up to such a degree in this country, they think they are outside the law. We honor celebrity to a fault... Then we're just as quick to tear them down."
"Peter's name is synonymous with excellence in film direction," says Ron Semaio of ESPN Original Entertainment. "His visionary and creative approach is well documented and hugely successful."
Bogdanovich said Rose "created an atmosphere around himself that was outside society, outside the law... [He] was operating on another level. There was a secret life there. People were living with lies. He traveled with not very distinguished company."
The lead role was played by Tom Sizemore, who Bogdanovich said would "be unbelievably great.. This is the right moment in his life to turn in a great performance. This role requires nuance. It's not a black-and-white kind of person. There are lots of colors."
Sizemore was out on bail while making the film. Bogdanovich says ESPN gave him a few days of rehearsal with Sizemore in order to "make him feel wanted and OK... He had been traumatized a bit by what had been happening to him. He's a sensitive guy."
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