As most of you know, last week I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend a press trip with Disney and ABC. One of the highlights being that I attended the Million Dollar Arm Premiere and was able to interview Jon Hamm!
Jon plays the lead role in Million Dollar Arm portraying JB Bernstein, the creator of “Million Dollar Arm”. He does a fantastic job too.
Us bloggers were given an EXCLUSIVE interview with him too! See what Jon had to say about the movie and his part in it below.
Q : In the movie JB Bernstein is struggling with that heat. How was it for you to be there?
Jon Hamm: Well it’s not just the heat. It’s everything. I mean, it’s a completely different culture. When you learn more about the actual J.B. Bernstein, the guy I play, he had to go through all this and figure out how to do business in this country and figure out how to manage all of this stuff. And there was no guarantee that it was going to work, at all. It was a huge leap of faith. I mean, if you speak to him now he’s fairly conversant in Hindi and he’s been doing it for six or seven years now so he’s very much comfortable in the Indian culture, and this was a direct result of this experience that he had.
It was a full on, immersive experience. It was hot. So much so that even our Indian crew were like, “What, what do you do about this stuff?” “Well, we don’t shoot in May. You guys, you guys are idiots. Like, the only ones who shoot in May are Americans. We go inside.”
Q : The story is so inspiring. How did you get involved in the film?
Jon Hamm: I met with Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray who are the producers of the film. They produced The Rookie and and Miracle. So I was familiar with their work and liked not only the kinds of movies that they made butthe stuff that they’ve done with Disney. It had a kind of a sensibility that I sparked to. I know Tommy McCarthy, who wrote the script and I’ve been a big fan of his work as well and was really impressed with the script.
I did not know it was a true story at the time. It somehow escaped my fairly detailed baseball radar. I am a big baseball fan but I hadn’t heard of it. So I kind of Googled around and, and looked up some stuff and I learned about it thought well this could be not only a fun project to work on as an actor but just a fun. I mean we get to go to India and that could be an interesting experience too. And I’m very, very glad I did. We’re tremendously proud of the film and also I made some really good friends on it.
Q : Who’s your favorite baseball team?
Jon Hamm: Well, that’s an easy one. I am born and raised in Saint Louis Missouri so the Saint Louis Cardinals are hands down my team.
Q : What would you say is the major difference of acting for television and acting in a feature film?
Jon Hamm: It depends. It depends, you know. I would suggest that maybe doing a pilot for a TV show is very, very much similar to acting in a movie. When you’re doing episodic television, you kind of know what works. Especially a show like ours (Mad Men) that’s been on six seasons. You know, you’re comfortable with the character, you know what the audience likes, you know what the story’s going to be in somewhat shape or form.
A film you’re kind of creating out of whole cloth. Obviously there’s a script there and it’s been developed and people have weighed in on it. The studio’s got notes and everyone’s got notes and you make your decisions accordingly to try to tell that story as best you can. But there’s no guarantee. And there’ve been tons of movies that we’ve all been excited to come out and you think, oh, this is gonna be great and it’s got my three favorite people in it and I love that director and the studio’s had nothing but hits. And then you watch it and you’re like, eh, it kind of didn’t work, did it? And you just don’t know. Sometimes the soufflé just falls. Although this, this movie was not!
Generally making films is a much slower pace. Television you’re shooting seven, eight, nine pages a day. Simply because you have to. Production schedule is that tight. Movies, not so much. Although this one we really did, I mean, there were days when we had, I had probably thirteen costume changes in one day. And I don’t wear a lot of crazy costumes in this movie. So it was like a different Polo and a different hat.
But we had so little time and we were, we were kind of hamstrung by weather and light and location and all this other stuff that we really had to jam it all in. But that’s service to Craig Gillespie, the director of the film, who was the Energizer Bunny and completely was our leader, and was inspiring to work for. So props to him.
Q : Do you think there was more pressure on you as an actor to portray somebody like a character based on a true story?
Jon Hamm: I would suggest maybe if it was somebody that a lot of people knew. There’s probably a little more pressure on Daniel Day Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln although no one around, no one around really knows him anymore. But no, you know, I felt very responsible towards J.B., especially after having met him. And kind of learning his story and learning how profoundly this experience changed his life. We tried to tell that in the film.
The guy’s life was really changed for the better because of this experience. And it was not, he did not set out to have some sort of life changing experience. He just wanted to make money. And sometimes that happens. You know, unexpectedly you just all of a sudden find yourself affected by things and that’s J.B.’s story. So I felt very, you know, close to that and I didn’t want to misrepresent him at all, certainly. But he’s given me his stamp of approval.
Q : Has filming this movie and traveling to India changed your life in any positive ways?
Jon Hamm: I think all travel is in general, should be, kind of life affirming and eye-opening in some way. This was certainly no exception. I’d never been to Asia, much less India specifically, so I had kind of no concept of what I was going to see. I mean, we’ve all seen photos of the Taj Mahal and the this and the that. But it was like every travel experience. When you actually get there and you’re there in person it’s, it’s in 3D.
The sights and smells and the heat and everything else makes the experience even more worthwhile. So I can’t point to anything specifically where I had sort of epiphany about life, the universe and everything but I did very much enjoy it. I would totally go back in a heartbeat. And it’s such a big country with so many influences that I saw like the tip, tip, tip of the iceberg of. So I’d love to go back.
Q : What was your favorite part of the movie and why?
Jon Hamm: There’s a couple parts I think. Most of the stuff we shot in India was pretty great to film ’cause we were in the dirt and it was really, really, exciting. But there’s a scene, it’s toward the end of the film that I actually really liked shooting as well that’s much more from an acting standpoint. Which is basically when the kids throw J.B. his sort of ‘we’re bringing India to you’ and they have that nice party.
And he realizes that they somehow feel like he’s disappointed in them. And the honest truth is, (J.B. tells this story as well) he felt such responsibility for these kids by that point in their life and their career that the idea of him disappointing them somehow was soul-crushing to him. He’s like, you could never disappoint me. That’s impossible.
You know, ’cause he’s their dad at that point, a surrogate dad. And the boys are so wonderful in the film and they bring such, heartfelt warmth to these characters that it’s the emotion is really what helps to carry the film. Again, it could be just another movie about sports and feel good and this and that but the emotion that the boys bring to their parts really does, carry it into a different world.
Q : How do you feel that this film is set apart from other sports films that have come along?
Jon Hamm: I think like all good… most good sports films, it’s not necessarily all about the sport. I think if you look at something like The Natural. Ostensibly that’s about baseball or a baseball player. But it’s really about this guy and his life and how it was changed and how it was interrupted and then he got to come back and fall in love and all that other stuff. That’s a movie that I, if I watch two seconds of, I watch the whole thing and I’m a mess by the end of it.
But this movie is like that. It’s a family movie but it’s set against the backdrop of sports. In particular, baseball. But it’s, it would be a disservice to it, I think, to just say it’s a baseball movie because, for me at least it means much more than that.
It just felt richer than just a game where I hope they win the big game, you know, at the end. So that was what I hope we brought through the making of it.
Be sure to see the movie Million Dollar Arm THIS weekend!! Premieres in theaters nationwide on May 16th! You will LOVE it! And keep your eye out for more interviews with the cast!
Photos courtesy of Disney. I was provided an all-expense paid trip to the premiere and press activities for this movie. All opinions are entirely my own!