I’m also in a little bit of disbelief that less than a week ago I was in the same room with Jon Hamm, asking him questions and getting his unique view on everything Million Dollar Arm!
I have to say, Jon Hamm was a gracious interviewee, and I loved hearing about his personal experiences and perspectives while filming the movie!
These are some of my favorite parts of the interview with Jon Hamm:
JB Bernstein’s character struggles with the extreme heat in India. How was it for you to be in India?
Jon Hamm: Well, it’s not just the heat. It’s everything–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 this stuff. And there was no guarantee that it was going to work. It was a huge leap of faith.
If you speak to (J.B. Bernstein) now he’s fairly conversant in Hindi…and he’s very comfortable in Indian culture. This was a direct result of this experienc ehe had.
It was a full on immersive experience. It was so hot. So much that when we asked our Indian crew what do you do about [this heat], they were like, “Well we don’t shoot in May. You guys are idiots. The only ones who shoot in May are Americans. We go inside.”
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 Miracle. I was familiar with their work and liked not only the kids of movies that they made but the stuff they’ve done with Disney. It had a kind of 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 I was really impressed with the script.
I didn’t 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 googled around, learned about it and thought that this could be not only a fun project to work on as an actor, but just a fun…interesting experience.
I’m very, very glad I did. we’re tremendously proud of the film and I made some really good friends on it.
Do you think there was more pressure on you as an actor to protray somebody like a character based on a true story?
Jon Hamm: I would suggest maybe if it was somebudy that a lot of people knew. There was probably a litlte more pressure on Daniel Day Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln, although no one around really knows him anymore!
I felt very responsible towards J.B. [Bernstein] especially after having met him and learning his story and learning how profoundly this experience changed his life. We tried to tell that in the film. That’s what actually happened to the guy.
[J.B. Bernstein]’s life was really changed for the better because of this experience. He didn’t set out to have some sort of life-changing experience. He just wanted to make money. And sometimes that happens. Unexpectedly you just find yourself affected by things and that’s J.B.’s story. So I felt very close to that and I didn’t want to misrepresent him at all.
Has filming this movie and traveling to India changed your life in any positive ways?
Jon Hamm: I think all travel in general should be life-affirming and eye-opening in some way. This was certainly no exception…
We’ve all seen photos of the Taj Mahal, but it was like every travel experience; when you actually get there and you’re there in person, it’s in 3D. The sights and the smells and the heat and everything else makes the expereience even more worthwhile.
So I can’t point to anything specifically where I had sort of an epiphany about life and the universe, 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 influeces that I saw the tip, tip, tip of the iceberg. I’d love to go back.
What was your favorite part of the movie?
Jon Hamm: There are a couple parts. Most of the stuff we shot in India was pretty great, because were were ‘in the dirt’ and it was really, really exciting. But there’s a scene, toward the end of the film, that I really liked shooting from an acting standpoint. It’s when the kids [characters Rinku, Dinesh and Amit] throw J.B. his India [dinner] and they have that nice party. And he realizes that they feel like he’s disappointed in them.
The honest truth is, and J.B. tells this story as well, is that he felt such a 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 disppoint me. That’s impossible.’
…Because he’s their dad at this point–a surrogate dad. The boys [Suraj Sharma (Rinku) and Madhur Mittal (Dinesh)] are so wonderful in the film and they bring such heartfelt warmth to these characters that the emotion is really what helps to carry the film.
It could be just another movie about sports, but the emotion that the boys bring to their parts really does carry it into a different world.
How do you feel that this film is set apart from other sports films?
Jon Hamm: I think that, like most good sports films, it’s not necessarily all about the sport. 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. That’s a movie that if I watch two seconds of it, I watch the whole thing and I’m a mess by then end of it.
‘Million Dollar Arm’ is like that. It’s a family movie but it’s set against the backdrop of sports. It would be a disservice to it, I think, to just say it’s a baseball movie because it means much more than that. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do this film.
It just felt richer than just [a film] where they hope they win the big game at the end. So that’s what I hope we brought through the making of ‘Million Dollar Arm’.
Disney’s Million Dollar Arm opens in theaters everywhere on May 16th! Find it at a theater near you and buy your tickets today!
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Disclosure: Travel and expenses were provided by Disney to participate in this press trip. All opinions are my own, and all experiences were real.