Rollerball (1975): Jewison’s Sci-Fi Sports Drama, Starring James Caan

Norman Jewison directed Rollerball, a sci-fi sports film, starring James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn and Ralph Richardson.

The screenplay is by William Harrison, who adapted his own short story, “Roller Ball Murder,” which first appeared in the September 1973 issue of Esquire.

Jonathan E., the team captain and vet star of the Houston Rollerball team. has become the sport’s most recognizable and talented player. After another impressive performance against Madrid, Mr. Bartholomew, chairman of the Energy Corporation, announces that Jonathan will be featured in “multivision” broadcast about his career.

Bartholomew wants Jonathan to retire, and he offers the Rollerballer lavish retirement package if he makes the announcement during the special. He then preaches the benefits of corporate-run society and the importance of respecting executive decisions, never explaining the reason for his retirement.

Jonathan refuses, and requests to see his former wife Ella, who had been taken from him earlier by corporate executive who desired her.

Suspicious of forced retirement, Jonathan reads books about  corporations and history. He finds that all books have been digitized and “edited” to suit the corporations, and are now stored on supercomputers at protected corporate locations.

Cletus, Houston’s former coach who helped make Jonathan a superstar, is now an Energy executive as well as Jonathan’s friend. He warns him that the Executive Committee is afraid of him, though he cannot learn why people so powerful would be afraid of a Rollerballer.