Exclusive Million Dollar Arm Interview with Aasif Mandvi

Aasif Mandviphoto credit: Disney

Million Dollar Arm is now in theaters and I’m not even sure I need to tell you again how great it is! You can read my  Million Dollar Arm review and see my three favorite things about the movie. You can take a look at my experience at the Hollywood premiere.

To get even more behind-the-scenes details from stars of the film, check out my interview with Jon Hamm and my interviews with Mitesh Madhur and Suraj Sharma. Then, read about the real-life inspirations behind the story of Million Dollar Arm. You can see it all in my interviews with JB Bernstein, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel.

Aasif Mandvi interviewphoto credit: Disney

Finally, I also had the privilege of interviewing Aasif Mandvi, who plays Ash in Million Dollar Arm. I sincerely enjoyed him in this movie, and I’ve been a longtime fan of his since he joined The Daily Show several years ago! He was just as charming and funny as I expected him to be.

My interview with Aasif Mandvi:

At one time you were a performer at Walt Disney World. Did you think you would get to [act in a Disney film] and what has that experience been like? 

I was a street performer at the Disney/MGM Studios and now I was in a Disney movie, so it’s a very different experience. There’s less catering involved. You don’t get a trailer, catering, nothing. [Working at Disney World] was great! Disney, the MGM Studios, was my first job out of college so it was an amazing experience. It was really fun.

We sort of opened the MGM Studios back in 1989 and played street performing characters. It was a great place to learn comedy and improv. I hope this isn’t where I end but it’s where I started. It came full circle.

Did you start your career after working at MGM? Were you a stand-up comedian?  [Read more…]

Exclusive Million Dollar Arm Interviews with Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma

Million Dollar Arm Suraj MadhurThanks to Dusty from AsMomSeesIt.com for the use of this photo!

I think my Million Dollar Arm review leaves little doubt that I’m a huge fan of this movie. It’s not because I went to the Hollywood premiere, it’s not just because I got to interview Jon Hamm, and it’s not even because I met and interviewed JB Bernstein, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel.

I even had the amazing opportunity to interview Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma, who play Dinesh and Rinku in Million Dollar Arm. But the reason I loved Million Dollar Arm so much is because it’s simply a great story told with amazing actors.

Two of those amazing actors are Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma. I’ve seen the movie twice, and, while I was impressed with their parts in the story during the first screening, I really noticed both of their brilliant acting skills the second time around.

million dollar arm suraj madhurphoto credit: Disney

Not only are they both fantastic actors, both Mittal and Sharma are incredibly nice! When my group of influential mom bloggers interviewed them a few hours before the Million Dollar Arm premiere, they were beyond gracious, sweet and funny in their answers to our questions.

Million Dollar Arm picphoto credit: Disney

[Read more…]

Disney’s Million Dollar Arm Review: I LOVED This Movie! #MillionDollarArmEvent

million dollar arm review

Disney’s Million Dollar Arm opens in theaters everywhere TODAY, May 16th! Find it at a theater near you and buy your tickets today!

I’ve been talking a lot about Disney’s Million Dollar Arm lately. It’s based on a true story, and I learned a lot about the people and the emotions behind the movie in my interview with JB Bernstein, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. My interview with Jon Hamm shares behind-the-scenes details and my recap of the red carpet at the Million Dollar Arm premiere shows just the tip of the iceberg of how incredible the night really was.

But I haven’t really said much about the movie itself. When I was writing those other Million Dollar Arm articles I found myself writing about how much I loved the movie, particular scenes that really stood out and the overall message of the movie. Then I’d remember that I wasn’t writing a Million Dollar Arm movie review at the time and I’d stop myself from going down that road.

Now’s my chance to rave about Million Dollar Arm. I’m not a professional movie critic, so this article is just me, talking about the good things and hoping I can convince you to see this movie. Because it’s that good.

Are you a sports fan? Let me be clear: I’m not. I like going to live sports events, but I couldn’t tell you anything about any professional sport and you pretty much have to pay me to sit down and watch televised game of anything if I can’t bring a book or my laptop along!

million dollar arm reviewYet I love the sports films Disney has released in the past: The Mighty Ducks, Angels in the Outfield, The Rookie, Miracle. I’ve found them all to be heartwarming, goosebump-inducing works that I could watch over and over again. Million Dollar Arm fits in perfectly among those fantastic family films.

I think Jon Hamm said it best: million dollar arm review

Based on a true story, sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) finds that business has changed and things aren’t going well for his career.

In a last-ditch effort to save his livelihood, he concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next great pitching ace. JB travels to India to produce a reality show competition called “The Million Dollar Arm.” With the help of cantankerous but eagle-eyed baseball scout Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin), he discovers Dinesh (played by Madhur Mittal from “Slumdog Millionaire”) and Rinku (played by Suraj Sharma from “Life of Pi”), two 18-year-old boys who have no idea about playing baseball, yet have a knack for throwing a fastball.

Hoping to sign them to major league contracts and make a quick buck, JB brings the boys home to America to train. While the Americans are definitely out of their element in India, the boys, who have never left their rural villages, are equally challenged when they come to the States.

As the boys learn the finer points of baseball, JB, with the help of his charming friend Brenda (Lake Bell), learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.

There are a three things about Million Dollar Arm that really took it to the next level for me:

  1. The acting of both Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma. These two play parts Dinesh and Rinku who won the pitching contest in India and came to America to train. I can’t decide who of the two I liked better in the movie, but, collectively, they were fantastic. It wasn’t long after their characters were introduced that I felt a connection to them, and I loved the innocence and determination of the characters they played.
  2. The Million Dollar Arm soundtrack. As Sarah Polonsky stated in a Vibe.com article, This is one of those film scores that come around every decade and knocks it out of the ballpark 
  3. Pitobash. This actor plays Amit in Million Dollar Arm and his character is beyond delightful. Amit is charming, funny, helpful and inspiring. When I noticed was sitting right behind me at the premiere, I had to turn around and compliment him on his performance. He couldn’t have been more sweet and gracious in person!

I’ve seen Million Dollar Arm twice and I can’t wait to watch it again with my husband. Then I want to see it with my niece and nephews (ages 8-14).

The best part about Million Dollar Arm is that I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t enjoy it. It’s definitely one of those rare movies that will appeal to everyone, making it the perfect film for the whole family!

Disney’s Million Dollar Arm opens in theaters everywhere TODAY, May 16th! Find it at a theater near you and buy your tickets today!

Like Million Dollar Arm on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MillionDollarArm

Follow Million Dollar Arm on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DisneyPictures

Visit the official site for Million Dollar Armwww.Disney.com/MillionDollarArm

Disclosure: Travel and expenses were provided by Disney to participate in this press trip. All opinions are my own, and all experiences were real. 

photo credit: all photos courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Exclusive: JB Bernstein, Rinku Singh, Dinesh Patel of Million Dollar Arm #MillionDollarArmEvent

JB Bernstein Dinesh Patel Rinku SinghJust hours before I attended the Million Dollar Arm premiere I had the amazing opportunity to interview the true inspiration behind Disney’s Million Dollar Arm:

JB Bernstein: Sports agent, CMO of Seven Figures Management and the creator of the real Million Dollar Arm pitching contest in India, which led to the first two Indian men (Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel) to sign pro sports contracts in the United States.

Rinku Singh: Left-handed baseball pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He was the first winner of The Million Dollar Arm pitching contest in India.

Dinesh Patel: Right-handed baseball pitcher who played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization after pitching JB Bernstein’s Million Dollar Arm pitching contest in India.

jon hamm million dollar arm posterIf you weren’t already aware of the story behind Disney’s Million Arm, it’s based on the real experience JB Bernstein had when he dreamed up The Million Dollar Arm pitching contest, a reality TV show created to find the fastest pitcher in India.

The Indian pitching contest resulted in Bernstein bringing the winners, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel to the United States to train and play professional baseball.

influential mom bloggersJB Bernstein, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel sat down with me (along with a group of 24 other influential mom bloggers)  to tell us more about their real experiences that inspired Disney’s Million Dollar Arm:

Mr. Bernstein, in the movie, Million Dollar Arm, it shows how you came to decide to do The Million Dollar Arm contest. Would you say it was relatively accurate to how you actually began?

JBB: You know, some of the things they touch on are inspirations but, like any idea, I have business partners and they were part of the idea generation. But it’s hard to tell a movie from eighty points of view.

In reality, my two business partners (Chang and Ash, who were both in the movie) helped us. We were thinking about all of these things separately, but it wasn’t until we really came together that we had the idea to try to do a game show to find athletes.

So it’s pretty accurate in that it shows the inspirations for things but I’m not smart enough to come up with this idea by myself.

What’s life like for you being a dad and what kind of advice would you give to dads?

JBB: I don’t know that I would qualify to give advice just yet yet after only three years. I’m still probably taking advice!

But having Rinku and Dinesh live with me gave me a taste of fatherhood. It reminded me of the importance of family. It reminded me of the importance of being surrounded by people that you love and that love you. Being able to take pride in other people’s accomplishments, a lot of the rudimentary lessons of life came back into focus. So I think in a lot of ways I started being a parent…with these guys.

Now, with Delphine (Bernstein’s daughter), the best advice I can give to any parent is to treasure your time. It’s almost inconceivable that she’s three years old. It’s almost inconceivable that it was 2008 and 2009 that these guys were living with me. The time goes so fast and there’s no way you can possibly cherish time enough with your kids.

Watching Million Dollar Arm and seeing your lives, how does it feel seeing yourself in the movie?

DP: This is a big deal for me. I’m very happy and my family is also happy so it’s a good deal.

How do you feel about Suraj Sharma playing you (Rinku Singh)?

RS: He’s done a great job. He’s not just a great actor, he’s also a great human. Meeting him in person, it just really meant a lot. He was really nice.

Plus, seeing this movie-I really liked it. It was inspirational he’s done a great job. And the way he actually did it was awesome. It really reminded me of 2008, little Indian that I was.

How was it learning the game of baseball?

RS: It really takes some time. Just like if you took an American baseball player and made them become a cricket player, they’d have no idea how to pitch in cricket. So that was a totally different world coming here and playing professional baseball.

It did take a year but I believe it doesn’t matter what you’re doing in your life. If you’re willing to give whatever you’ve got inside and out you are going to succeed.

A really important part of the movie is when you left India. What was it like to leave your families and what kind of role has family played in your life?

DP: My parents were really afraid of me leaving. They [didn’t want me to go] because it was a new world for me. They were very afraid.

RS: We didn’t just leave family, we left our culture, family, friends, food…and we were just 18 year old kids.

Making that huge decision wasn’t easy for us. We were thinking, what are we going to do not knowing anything about American culture? We don’t know the language. We don’t know anyone besides JB. Our parents were really afraid because we never went out of India.

That really changed our life. That taught us that, whatever comes to your life, you make that decision if you’re willing to give all you will be happy for the decision you made. So I’m really proud of the decision I made being in America. It’s totally amazing. It has changed my life, changed my family’s life and I want to stay here.

If you could do everything all over again, would you do the same?

RS: I would love to. I’m learning a lot. That journey taught a lot of things. It really made me whole. I grew up a lot [from The Million Dollar Arm]. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I [hadn’t done the contest].

How do you feel about the movie and the premiere tonight? Are you excited?

DP: Yes, I’m very excited.

JBB: Rinku had the chance to screen the movie for his team in Renton. Dinesh was at a screening with the Indian Ambassador of the United States.

These guys have met Obama.

I’ve been a sports agent for 20 years. I’ve never done anything good until I met these guys. I would probably speak for all of us when we say that this is a really personal journey for us. It’s not like your traditional business deal that I’ve done. This is about something that’s obviously a very pivotal point in our life.

Our hope is really two things: One is that people will take away what these guys have endured in order to be successful. Two is that dreams are possible in this country. Now for kids, to be able to look at Rinku and Dinesh as role models and say, Look. If these guys did this, I can do anything. I could be a baseball pitcher and it gives that first spark of hope not just for kids in India but for kids everywhere.

[Kids] have these two guys to look at, who have done something that’s never been done in the history of the world, to go from a position of never hearing of the sport to this:

Rinku won his first game 13 months from the day he picked up a baseball. Dinesh won his first game 14 months after the first day that he picked up a baseball. That’s just unheard of. I’ve been a sports man my whole life. I’ve been an agent my whole adult life. I’ve never heard of anything like this. I’ve never heard of anybody even thinking something like this could be possible.

And then for my story, I think I’m excited for people to realize it’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to be a better person. It’s not that I was a bad person, I think I was somewhat one dimensional.

Everybody says,Were you really that big of a jerk? I sidestep that question because I didn’t feel like a jerk at the time. I wasn’t trying to be. I just was very myopic and I think that, now, thanks to these guys, thanks to my family, I have a much different view. So I’m kind of hoping these thins come through to the audience.

It’s exciting to be able to actually finally share this story with the world.

Are you still running The Million Dollar Arm [contest] in India?

JBB: It’s still running in India. We start our third season this winter. Our first season we saw about 38,000 kids. This year we’ll see half a million.

I’m sure we’ll find talent and there’s still a monetary side to [the contest]. But there’s a social side to the contest that really none of us saw coming that has really become the focus for Million Dollar Arm, which sounds weird for an agent to say. I’m supposed to be about making money! But this is a unique opportunity we have to almost have a social revolution.

Disney’s Million Dollar Arm opens in theaters everywhere on May 16th! Find it at a theater near you and buy your tickets today!

Like Million Dollar Arm on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MillionDollarArm

Follow Million Dollar Arm on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DisneyPictures

Visit the official site for Million Dollar Armwww.Disney.com/MillionDollarArm

Want to read more about my exclusive #MillionDollarArmEvent experiences?

Disclosure: Travel and expenses were provided by Disney to participate in this press trip. All opinions are my own, and all experiences were real. 

Million Dollar Arm: An Interview with Jon Hamm #MillionDollarArmEvent

jonIt’s hard to believe that just last week I was in Los Angeles for a whirlwind blog trip to celebrate and promote Disney’s Million Dollar Arm, along with a few other Disney/ABC projects.

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!

Jon Hamm Million Dollar Arm

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!

Like Million Dollar Arm on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MillionDollarArm

Follow Million Dollar Arm on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DisneyPictures

Visit the official site for Million Dollar Armwww.Disney.com/MillionDollarArm

Disclosure: Travel and expenses were provided by Disney to participate in this press trip. All opinions are my own, and all experiences were real. 

The Amazing Million Dollar Arm Premiere at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood

Million Dollar Arm ReviewThanks to Mary Jo from themommers.com for the use of this photo.

Million Dollar Arm. I’ve seen the movie twice in the past five days and I just want to tell everyone, Go see this movie!

The official release date for the movie is May 16, 2014, but here’s a surprise: Million Dollar Arm will be sneaking into over 500 movie theaters across the US this Saturday night (5/10). You can check your local listings (click here and see the search for Million Dollar Arm and click buy tickets) on Fandango to find it at a theater near you. Trust me. If it’s showing near you I definitely think you should go see it. You won’t regret it!

million dollar arm reviewWhen I shared the news that I was invited to attend the Hollywood premiere of Million Dollar Arm I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the movie, but I knew enough to be nothing but excited about attending a red carpet premiere at the El Capitan theater!

The premiere of Million Dollar Arm was an interactive experience that truly made me feel like a part of the celebration of the movie. The evening started with viewing the contestants of the Million Dollar Arm pitching contest showing off their throwing skills in the chance to win $1 million!

Million Dollar Arm reviewIt was pretty astounding to see nine men all pitching at least 86 mph. There was so much talent displayed in that fast contest I ended up feeling a little disappointed that they all didn’t win. The only way to win the $1 million prize was to pitch at 100 mph during their time on the pitchers mound at the contest, and no contestant was able to do it.

Even so, all nine finalists received a $500 gift package from Rawlings, a gift package from Under Armour and tickets to the ESPY awards. To top it all off, the contestant who pitched the fastest also received a contract for representation with legendary sports agent J.B. Bernstein (that’s who Million Dollar Arm is based on)!

After the pitching contest we saw that the red carpet was actually a green astroturf carpet to fit the baseball theme of the movie. (I’m definitely not a vet at going to movie premieres, but it was fun that there was also a green carpet at the Disney/Pixar Brave premiere that I attended a few years ago).

There movie premiere was definitely a star-studded event, but I was honestly too caught up in looking around to remember to take photos! Thankfully Disney provided a few to showcase who was in attendance:

Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal Million Dollar ArmThese two definitely played the most touching characters in the movie, and their acting skills are nothing short of brilliant.

Suraj Sharma (Rinku) and Madhur Mittal (Dinesh) are likely recognizable from their previous roles in two huge films: Suraj Sharma starred in Life of Pi and Madhur Mittal was in Slumdog Millionaire. They’re both absolutely fantastic in this Million Dollar Arm. 

And the real-life athletes and agent who provided all the inspiration for the movie were in attendance: Rinku Dinesh Jb BernsteinFrom left to right: Rinku Singh, Dinesh Patel and JB Bernstein.

Before the movie started I was thrilled to be seated directly in front of Pitobash, who plays Amit in Million Dollar Arm. I turned around and told him how much I loved his acting and his character in the film and he was quite possibly the sweetest man alive in how thankful he was!

Attending the premiere of Million Dollar Arm at the El Capitan theater was an incredible, unforgettable experience and I’m so excited to share more about the actors and the movie in the next week!

Follow @babysavers on twitter and watch the #MillionDollarArmEvent hashtag to stay on top of everything Million Dollar Arm!

Disclosure: Travel and expenses were provided by Disney to participate in this press trip. All opinions are my own, and all experiences were real.