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With: Alex Popov, Patrick Hayashi, Barry Bonds, Robin Williams
Written by: Michael Wranovics
Directed by: Michael Wranovics
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 90
Date: 10/01/2004

Up for Grabs (2005)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

An Interview with Mike Wranovics

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Fed up with his high-tech marketing job, Mike Wranovics dreamed, like millions of others, of making a film. In 2001, he quit his job and began writing a screenplay. During breaks, he would watch the Giants play and count as Barry Bonds whacked his way toward the single-season home run record. Not long after Bonds hit #73 into the stands, Wranovics found a new story.

From underneath the upper-deck dogpile, fan Patrick Hayashi popped up with the record-breaking ball in his hand, but another fan, Alex Popov, claimed that he had actually caught it. What's more, Popov had witnesses and videotape to prove it. The two eventually went to court over ownership of the ball, and an American metaphor was born, as well as Wranovics's first film, the crackerjack documentary Up for Grabs.

JMA: Up for Grabs has a terrific story arc. As it begins, one guy is clearly the owner of the ball, but as it goes on, the other guy begins to look pretty good. And then you've got that zinger of an ending. How did your editing process work?

MW: We had over 250 hours of footage. At first it was just me, going through it, logging it and trying to fit anything into the film. I got it down to 10 hours. Later I brought in my editor, Dave Ciaccio. It took a few months. I wanted to get the comedy across: two grown men fighting over a ball, and people taking this relatively trivial situation seriously. The more serious it got, the funnier it got. But I also wanted to cover the investigative part accurately.

JMA: There's definitely more footage of Alex than of Patrick. And when Alex has his "ball-touching" party, Patrick doesn't seem to be there.

MW: There was a long period of time where I had no access to Patrick. Each of them got their time with the ball. Alex didn't want the ball to go straight to the auction and he hadn't had any time with it. I found that amusing. I thought it would make for a good scene in the film. Alex loves the camera and the camera loves him.

JMA: Robin Williams appears for a little cameo near the end. How did you get him?

MW: One of those happy accidents. We were in the Giants locker room. We were going to see if we could get an interview with Barry Bonds and we look over and there's Robin Williams just hanging out. We hopped on over there and asked him. He hadn't heard about [the situation with the ball]. I explained the whole thing, and I could see his mind at work. He just took all this information in and just started riffing. He was amazing. He was a total gentleman.

JMA: Where did you find Mike Maganza, the guy in the Dodgers jersey who has an opinion on the ownership of the ball?

MW: I was in the little market next to my apartment in North Beach, and I was actually trying to talk to the owner, who knows everybody in the neighborhood. And in walks this guy with the Dodgers jersey and he had this cool look to him, this thick New York accent. The next thing, he was talking about being at the ballpark and witnessing #73. I was struggling to get this film going at that point, and in walks this guy. And then he even said the title of the film. It was as if he had been dropped in by the film gods. It rejuvenated me. It made me feel like we were definitely on to something.

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