By Bill Francis
As founder, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, Thomas Tull has been responsible for some of the most popular films of the past half dozen years. So maybe it’s appropriate that the first movie produced by this baseball fan’s company was Batman Begins.
Tull, born and raised in Binghamton, N.Y., less than 70 miles from Cooperstown, visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Friday afternoon with his wife Alba and stepson Bret. During a break in the family’s tour, Tull talked about what brought him to the home of the National Pastime.
“I haven’t been here in over a decade, which is a travesty,” Tull said. “Living in Los Angeles it’s a little tougher, but I was in New York on business and just thought with the start of the season and everything that I had to get over here.
“For me, it’s the connective fabric between the past, today and the fact that you guys are such amazing custodians of the game. Baseball, I think more than any other sport, has a reverence for the past – records, statistics – and it’s all here under one roof.”
Tull, 39, estimates that he has been to the Hall of Fame 10 times over the years, the first when he was brought by an uncle at the age of nine.
“I remember being excited to see everything but not quite having an appreciation for the plaques and the older players,” he said. “I’ve always been in awe of the Hall of Fame. This place is absolute hallowed ground for me.”
A multi-sport athlete at Maine-Endwell High School, Tull had the rare opportunity to play baseball a few times on Cooperstown’s historic Doubleday Field. An outfielder, he continued his ball playing at nearby Hamilton College, eventually getting a tryout with the Atlanta Braves where, he joked, he was “not quite good enough to get a paycheck for it, so that’s why I keep on hanging around places like these.”
Besides Batman Begins (2005), other Legendary Pictures productions include Superman Returns (2006), 300 (2007), The Dark Knight (2008), Watchmen (2009), The Hangover (2009) and the recently released Clash of the Titans (2010).
“Since I was a little boy I’ve been a total movie geek, so it’s a real privilege to do it. We make movies that I want to see, and when that stops working that I’ll be done with that,” Tull said. “Sometimes it’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time I get to work with some amazing directors like Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder.”
According to Tull, who counts The Natural as one of has favorite all-time films, he can see one day making a baseball movie.
“As far as baseball, I would love to do that if I could find the right story. Jackie Robinson is a story I think needs to be told,” he said. “I would love to make a baseball movie if we could find the right story just because I’m so passionate about the game.”
A Yankee rooter since childhood, with third baseman Graig Nettles a favorite, Tull is also a football fan and part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I love sports and I’m unbelievably fortunate,” Tull said. “I sometimes feel like I’m Forrest Gump, like I just kind of wander in. It’s pretty great.”
Though his allegiance lies with the Bronx Bombers, and he makes it to as many Yankee games as possible, he does have season tickets for the Los Angeles Dodgers “just because it’s baseball and it’s in town.”
As for why baseball still has this pull on him after all these years, Tull explained that “every spring I walk near a field and you can smell the dirt in the air. There’s something unbelievably poetic about it in a way.”
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.