John Grisham has gone Mel Gibson one better. The best-selling novelist financed and produced his own passion project. Unlike Gibson, he's self-distributing his film. ''I didn't want to fool with the studios, and we knew it wasn't going to be terribly expensive, so we decided to do it ourselves,'' says Grisham, who's had nine novels made into movies.
When Grisham sat down to write a book about a dad running from the IRS with his son, an all-star Little League pitcher, he realized he had a screenplay on his hands. (A former Little League coach, Grisham's commissioner of his town's league.) So he and director Hugh Wilson (The First Wives Club) cast Harry Connick Jr. as the dad and filmed Mickey near their homes in Charlottesville, Va. After two years of lowball offers, they decided the only way to get their money back was to distribute the film themselves. Together, Grisham and Wilson put up $5 million plus. Backed by a grassroots ad campaign targeting Little Leaguers, Mickey opened in six cities April 30. It rolls out across the South in May, but national release will require divine box office intervention. Could Mickey be the next Passion? ''Boy,'' says Grisham, ''I sure hope so.''