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Platt Sits in the Boss' Chair

Platt Sits in the Boss' ChairTufts graduate and acclaimed actor Oliver Platt portrays legendary New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in a new ESPN miniseries.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.06.07] As the New York Yankees continue to struggle this year, fiery owner George Steinbrenner has made his desire for a seventh championship banner known. However, it is the first of Steinbrenner's six World Series victories that a new eight-part ESPN miniseries chronicles, with Tufts graduate and award-winning actor Oliver Platt (A'83) portraying the turtleneck-clad "Boss."

"The Bronx Is Burning," which begins its eight-week run on July 9, focuses on the 1977 season, which saw Steinbrenner clashing with team manager Billy Martin and luring free agent slugger and soon-to-be legend Reggie Jackson to play in pinstripes. Tufts graduate Gordon Greisman (A'72) was a writer and executive producer on the project.

The series, adapted from the nonfiction book by Jonathan Mahler, depicts the power struggle between Steinbrenner and Martin and the run toward a legendary World Series where Jackson would power the Yankees to their first championship since 1962.

In addition to the conflict within the team, the season unfolded against a backdrop of urban disarray in New York, including a mayoral race, a historic blackout and the fear generated by serial killer Son of Sam-all of which play key roles in the miniseries.

Platt's portrayal of the Yankees' owner has received critical praise. "Oliver Platt's Steinbrenner is a broadly drawn villain and consummate seducer who tortures the fragile Martin," wrote The New York Times. "Oliver Platt nails Steinbrenner down to his turtleneck," according to the New York Post.

The irony in Platt's portrayal of Steinbrenner is that the actor's Tufts experience left him a dyed-in-the-wool Red Sox fan. "You go to a game at Fenway and you're hooked," he explained to the Los Angeles Times.

But as Platt told the Los Angeles Times, despite his Red Sox allegiance he was committed to playing Steinbrenner convincingly. "[If you are portraying] Jesus Christ, Satan or whatever, imagine yourself before the Pearly Gates arguing this guy's way into heaven," he told the newspaper. The Times added that Platt aimed to "make the case for [Steinbrenner] as a pioneering, out-front owner, like Mark Cuban today, involved in more than putting 'meat in the seats.'"

"Platt saw the Yankees owner as vulnerable, for all his bluster, because of a demanding father who used to fire him, much as Steinbrenner would later fire Martin time and again," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Though the Yankees came away winners in 1977, the miniseries imparts the lesson that not all victories are perfect.

"The actors said they hoped they'd left what Platt calls an 'ashes in the mouth' taste, the letdown that follows many triumphs, the strange sense of emptiness," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Besides the Steinbrenner role role, Platt has a full plate in the months ahead. He will play famed journalist Bob Zelnick in the upcoming film adaptation of the play "Frost/Nixon," directed by Ron Howard. He will also have a recurring role on the hit FX show "Nip/Tuck," playing TV producer Freddy Prune.

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