The story of Moe Berg, a journeyman catcher who was a spy during World War II, is one that seems ideally suited for a movie, yet it hasn’t gotten the big-screen treatment before. That’s about to change.
As reported by Deadline‘s Mike Fleming, Paul Rudd will portray Berg in The Catcher Was a Spy, based on the 1994 book by Nicholas Dawidoff. The film will be directed by Ben Lewin (The Sessions) with a screenplay written by Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan).
Berg played 15 years in the major leagues as a backup catcher, mostly for the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. He had a career .243 batting mark, while averaging just over 44 games played per season. Berg’s best season was 1929, when he appeared in 107 games and hit .287. But a knee injury suffered the following season plagued him through the rest of his career, relegating him to backup status.
However, Berg’s post-baseball life was far more notable and fascinating. The Harlem native was a Princeton and Columbia Law School graduate who spoke 10 languages. As a spy for the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA), Berg monitored resistance groups in Yugoslavia, helping the U.S. to determine who was worth supporting in the fight against the Nazis. Additionally, he traveled throughout Europe to interview physicists and recruit them in the effort to beat Germany to building an atomic bomb.
Perhaps the most famous story about Berg involves him filming footage of Tokyo from the rooftop of a hospital in 1934, giving the military a strategic layout of the city, locating the industrial sections where munitions factories might be, the harbor where ships might dock and so forth.
For Rudd, playing Berg is quite a departure from the comedic fare he’s performed in recent years. But his role as Ant-Man in Marvel’s superhero franchise (next to be seen in Captain America: Civil War) has demonstrated that he can do action roles, along with comedy and drama. The Catcher Was a Spy will likely require all three from him.
If Rudd’s portrayal of Berg is anywhere near as good as his version of Styx’s Tommy Shaw in a recreation of the group’s 1981 video for “Too Much Time on My Hands” with Jimmy Fallon, maybe the actor should start thinking about an Academy Award nomination.