A Q&A With The Stars Of Million Dollar Arm!



Hey All!

I recently attended the press conference for Disney’s New Film Million Dollar Arm. I should say it was more like a Q&A session I attended as there was a moderator for this press conference. The stars of the film Jon Hamm and Lake Bell were in attendance…


Along with the producer Joe Roth and real life JB Bernstein (who Jon Hamm plays in the film) and the real Rinku Singh. They discussed all you’d possibly want to know about this heartfelt film.

Here is what was discussed during the Q&A:

Let me start with you Gordon because this all sort of came about with you and Mark. How did you guys come up with this idea to do this as a film and did JB come to you or how did it all start?

Mark and I had known JB for many, many years before we even got into the film business and I think it was a Super Bowl right JB, that you told Mark you were heading over to India?


With this crazy idea to find pitching prospects in India. So that’s the last  we talked about it and then when JB came back with Rinku and Dinesh having been signed by Pittsburgh. They had thought that this would be a great idea for I think a doc and we immediately recognized that this had great potential as a feature film.

Well you guys had done so many sports-oriented films in the past, most recently Secretariat and Miracle and all of the, several, Invincible and The Rookie, so you’re sort of a specialist in this area, but I think this movie goes beyond any sports movie. It’s really a movie about relationships, it’s about family, it’s about a lot of things – not just this competition.

Yeah, no I absolutely agree with that. I mean for us this is a movie really about JB as a fish out of water going to India with his crazy scheme and then through the evolution of this development with the players, becoming a surrogate father and ultimately opening up his heart to find love and marriage.

Joe what, what attracted you to this, this project too because it’s also about second chances in a big way and I know that’s a theme that you really respond to in movies?

Everything attracted me to this project. I mean I knew the story, the basics of the story when Mark and Gordon came to me from ESPN. I’m a big sports fan so it wasn’t new to me and I wanted to get involved. I guess I’m the guy that people come to when they have these dream-like projects and haven’t quite figured out how to get it done and we pursued it for quite some time. We developed it in another studio, they decided not to make it. We came to Disney and it just seemed to me like kind of a perfect Disney movie, which was from my days at Disney. It was always defined as a Disney movie with just a really good story. And I love the second chance stories and I love fish-out-of-water stories and  I love the idea that I’m sitting in a movie theater and I’m thinking wow if these two guys can accomplish that, I can get up out of here when the lights get on and I can accomplish almost anything.

Yeah to me also it’s, it’s a true family movie. When you say family movie these days it’s usually an animation or it’s something else. You know this is a live action movie that anybody can go see and that’s getting more and more rare. This, this movie is what I’d call a true family film – they used to make all the time in Hollywood.

Yeah they don’t make them like that anymore. Now a family movie is anything you can take your three year old and have 17 people shot. That’s a family movie. And every once in a while something turns out far greater than your greatest dreams and  it’s an interesting thing because the combination.  I never had any doubt about Jon or Lake and Craig who’s not here because his father passed a few days ago and he’s back in Australia. But when you see the finished product, you know we’ve screened this picture and whether you’re a 12-year-old girl or a 55-year-old guy or vice versa, whatever, whether you’re here or you’re in India or you’re in the UK, everybody comes away feeling great about the movie so this is something I’m very proud of.

Now Jon, this is a terrific performance, big leading role. And wildly different from Don Draper. What was it about this script though and this story – did you know about it first? Had you ever heard of it?

I read the script and finished the script and loved it and then looked back to the title page and went like wait a minute. This is true? I am a huge baseball fan and somehow this flew under my radar and I didn’t know and so I immediately like two hours later I was in a Google hall of like finding out everything I could about this and I was like oh my God this actually happened and that element to the story it dove-tails with what Joe and Gordon just said.  It’s just this incredibly uplifting story about thinking outside the box and really following through with something and working hard and succeeding and it’s just again you’re right it’s about 180 degrees from Don Draper, this character that I play but it’s affirming and it’s uplifting and it’s heartwarming and it’s emotional and it’s not a “sports” movie so much as it’s a movie that moves you. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the finished product and how much h more than a sum of its parts. It’s has this wonderful message and it’s nice that I get to be in something that has heart you know. In my day job I play you know not the greatest guy in the world and it’s nice to not play him sometimes. No offense. Why would I offend you by saying that?


It’s also got, it’s a tricky tone too because it’s got a lot of comedy, it’s got a lot of drama, it’s got a lot of heart. It’s got all those things which is not always, that souffle to put together. I think a lot of it is the chemistry that you actors have with each other, I’m talking about you and Lake together. You, you’ve worked together before, but you seem great on screen together.

We’ve known each other for a long time, but we’ve never done anything that you know had sort of scenes that had real stakes in it you know where you know we could actually sink our teeth into something. Because on Children’s Hospital when we do bits and things like that, it’s completely different. I mean this was nothing to do with Mad Men. But also I think a testament to Tom McCarthy the writer who, who you know certainly when I read it. I’m a huge fan of his as well, but I think that in the script you know there’s very much, you know everybody has their own world so you know the female character in a sea of male characters still is you know well thought out and has her own world. That’s what really attracted me to the script so much and you know because I think a sea of gentleman and in a sports movie perhaps the female character can get left on the sidelines and I felt very you know the character itself is very present and has a lot of energy and somewhat of an emotional catalyst for your emotional journey.

Yeah, the scene that we have and I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie, but there’s a scene where one of the boys gets injured and it’s sort of like her fault, because she f***** up.

It’s like not my fault.

And she’s smart, she’s really smart. Is it hard to find these kinds of roles? I mean because this is a smart female character is a, as you say, a male-oriented kind of film.

Yeah I think it’s a well-drawn character. You know, she’s smart and she’s layered and sometimes even for a supporting peripheral character that’s sort of supporting his emotional journey that is often, I mean that’s absolutely rare, so I’m very thankful to it and also Craig’s work in keeping it tonally you know and he sort of encouraged me to be a little tough you know and I know JB said that the real Brenda you said she’s a bad ass right?

Just like watching you guys right now is like an out of body experience. It’s like me and Brenda literally arguing in front of you right now.

Well JB, it was the whole thing an out of body experience for you, seeing your life essentially come to life on the screen here. How did it come about for you in the first place and what was it like?

When someone’s going to make a story about your life, there’s a lot of trepidation but because of the Roth guys and because of the Mayhem guys. I had a huge level of trust. I mean as Gordon says I’ve known those guys forever so I kind of just stood back and let them put this together. I spent a lot of time with Tom (McCarthy) and I think you know that’s reflected in what Jon and Lake are talking about. He would call me at 3 o’clock in the morning it’s like what would Brenda say to you if you did this and you know he spent a lot of time with Rinku and Dinesh and with the characters in real life. But what’s amazing about this story is all the major points in this story are true. My fish-out-of-water journey is almost exactly how it happened, down to costumes. Rinku and Dinesh’s fish-out-of-water journey is exactly as it happened. The way I fell in love with my wife. Their first try-out failure, which was my fault 100%. Now I’m saying that in public, so I’m on the record.


That was. It was 100% my fault. They’re succeeding with their second tryout which was 100% their fault. So all the major beats in this movie are exactly how they happened. When I watched the movie, my wife and I, you know we went to watch it and  it does kind of feel like an out-of-body experience and the relationship between Jon and Lake in this movie is so like my relationship with Brenda and a lot of that we owe to Tom, but also to these guys I mean, for never meeting Brenda it’s almost like she’s sitting right here right now. You know here like chiming in on Jon and I’m just like oh my God, that’s totally Brenda.

How much time did you spend with Jon before the film or had you met Jon at all?

The first time I met Jon they, they’d already, were deep into filming. We met him in India and you know I think you know, look I’m just very trite. I’m just a really easy guy. You know I’m a trite character, so he’s not, he’s the best actor out there and he took a great script and did a great job and a lot of my friends who have seen it say you know he really nailed you and I just laugh it’s so funny, it’s like you know he was halfway through filming before he ever met me. So it’s a testament to how this came together and, and to the type of actors these guys are.

It also begs the question because you’re playing a real life character Jon, and there’s, is there a difference for you as an actor when you’re playing somebody you know is still around?

Obviously you know what you desperately don’t want to do is be false, but I think that, that translates into any performance but again like it was such a pleasure to meet not only JB but Rinku and Dinesh and everyone who’s involved in this whole story has their real life counterparts and the last thing you want to do is sort of offend and, and portray them in some way that rings false and um I think it’s as Lake said, it’s just a testament to Tommy’s wonderful script that he got everybody on the page you know to the point where I read it and, and didn’t realize it was a true story until I looked back to the front page. And I was like wait, this is crazy. You know Tommy is a wonderful writer and he has the ability to make what seems like a simple story resonant in a way that brings so much more to it, and you see it in his films, you see it in The Visitor, you see it in Win-Win. You see it in all the stuff that he does for himself and he’s, he’s able to take this story, which is on its face an amazing story, an impossible story.

It’s almost unbelievable.

Unbelievable story and yet he embodies it with so much more emotion and love I guess. It’s hard to talk about without sounding hokey, but it just has this beautiful sensibility to it. I’m a sucker for that. It just makes me you know, it makes me feel something and that’s a nice thing. As Joe was saying like, it’s nice when the lights come up at the end of the movie to not be like what did I just watch.

Okay now I’ve got to ask Rinku, because you were there man. You were, you, you were right there, this is your story too and what’s it like for you in this portrayal. Suraj Sharma who of course was in Life of Pi plays you in this and he’s wonderful in the movie. I’m, I’m wondering what that kind of thing is for you to see this on the scene.

First of all I think he’s not just a great actor, he’s a great young man as well meeting him and you know. I’m very lucky to have a man like him to play my role and you know obviously what I think of this movie that I never have seen any movie like this before. It’s such an inspiring film. It’s not every day that a movie like this is made. This is something that you know seeing a bunch of American kids come in here like for me was totally a new. A new planet for me. Being here it’s just so amazing seeing all different new thing, you know. This is something I think a lot of American kids are gonna carry from the movie rest of their life. As example like I took over 200 ball players like all my teammate went to see the movie and the reality is what they carry. A lot of people they sign like 19-year-old kid signing with million dollar signing bonus, they don’t know what to do with it. You know they’re just young and seeing this movie and how I have struggled you know coming from where I’m coming from, they never realized and soon as they saw the movie they, a lot of kids they come to me and saying Rinku, I apologize. I apologize for that word we have used and how we have treated you. We never thought that’s where you’re coming from man. This is, this is something really amazing and we, gonna get serious. We’re gonna get really, really serious about this, this business. And the people I have seen, the guys teammate that you know walking around in, in clubhouse and not doing things. Those guys coming to me and saying like man this is something we learn from after seeing your struggle and where you’re coming from. So I think this is really, really serious. You know you can learn from it. Seeing it’s basically for a young man, you know not just in America, all around the world. I would say you know see it and it’s something real that we have been through and thanks to Pittsburgh Pirates organization otherwise we wouldn’t be here today. They’re the one keeping me alive, you know, so thanks to them and thanks to Disney for this film.

In an age of cynicism which we’re in obviously, and both in the real world and in the movie world, it is so unusual to work to work on a project like this and usually when you have like these kind of things and I have to drag the actors in and have them make up stuff they don’t believe in and say it was such a pleasure doing a seventh chapter of whatever movie it was.


Jon watching the film reminded me so much of some of my own experiences a few years ago, especially when you said it’s a study in extremes, so I’m wondering how you might apply something like that to your own career, the, the highest moment, the lowest moment and how you felt it changed your life much as this trip changed JB’s life?

You know it, it’s not difficult to draw a parallel between an agent’s life and an actor’s life in many ways. I mean you have to sort of project this confidence, you have to project this sort of charisma and charm and everything and then it all falls apart and that’s every audition that I’ve ever been on for the first like three years of my career in Los Angeles. You know, you walk in the room, you’re like this is going to be great! I’m the best guy and you love me and no it’s not working? Okay bye. So it’s immediately apparent and so I identified obviously with that, with that part of JB’s experience of sort of like trying to you know win these guys over in the room and then winning them and then oh you’re going to go with CAA okay great thank you so much, good bye. And so that’s, that’s obviously an easy parallel to draw. And again it’s such a capricious, strange existence basing your life on the whims of others and basing your kind of ebbs and flows of confidence and lack of confidence on you know the fact that people either choose you or don’t. I know Lake, we’ve both had very similar careers in that sense of just like you run up against a wall and then oh yeah, I guess they hired Brad Pitt, I’m moving on.


Stay tuned for my review of this film coming later this week. It’s a really enjoyable family friendly film.

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MILLION DOLLAR ARM is rated PG and opens in theaters everywhere on May 16th!