***Disclosure: I received an all-expense paid trip to Hollywood courtesy of Disney to facilitate my posts. No other compensation was provided, and all opinions are 100% honest and have not been influenced in any way.***
Anyway, between my Grandma's baseball obsession and my dear friend, Patty's, Jon Hamm obsession, I was more than a little geared up for this trip. Especially when I learned more about the inspirational, real-life story that "Million Dollar Arm" is adapted to.
"Million Dollar Arm" follows the story of J.B. Bernstein (played by Jon Hamm), a struggling sports agent who is looking to introduce the next big thing to the world of sports. It took a bit of brainstorming, but Bernstein came up with an idea that had never been attempted before. He wanted to travel to India to find the next star pitcher for Major League Baseball.
There would be a country-wide competition to see who could throw the fastest and most accurate pitches. Keep in mind, the boys and young men in India had never heard of American baseball, let along thrown a ball. Most of the folks who tried out hadn't even been outside of their rural farming villages. The winner would receive $100,000 American dollars, and both the winner and runner up would travel to Los Angeles, California to train and hopefully attract the attention of Major League talent scouts....All within a 1 year time frame.
Impossible? Well, you'll just have to watch the movie to find out! Let me just say that while Mr. Bernstein was looking solely at the dollar signs, he ended up taking away so much more from this experience. In fact, he ended up a changed man altogether.
The first thing I noticed when Jon Hamm came into the Hollywood Hills Room in the fabulous Lowe's Hollywood Hotel was definitely his hair. This man has absolutely perfect, 100% flawless hair. Or a really great stylist. Probably both, actually. It literally took me a couple minutes to get over how amazing his hair was. (What can I say, I am definitely a lover of some nice hair!) The rest of him wasn't too bad, either. I could definitely see why my gal-pal, Patty, is so enamored of him. Plus, Mr. Hamm is a die-hard baseball fan himself, and roots for the St. Louis Cardinals, his home team. This makes his role as JB Bernstein all the more perfect!
I know, I know...I should stop my fan-girl rambling and share some of our exclusive interview with you all!
One thing we were all very eager to know was what Jon's impressions of India were. In my mind, India has always held a certain beauty and exotic mystique, so I was very interested in hearing all about their time there. They spent a lot of time filming in India, and there were certain challenges, such as the extreme heat which caused several t-shirt changes. (Oh, to be a fly on that wall!)
Here's Jon's take on filming in India, and the challenges the "Million Dollar Arm" cast and crew faced:
Jon Hamm: Well it's not just the heat. It's literally everything. I mean, it's a completely different culture. And 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. 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.
So yeah. It was a full on, immersive experience. And 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 are idiots. The only ones who shoot in May are Americans. We go inside!"
I am SO glad that Disney saw the incredible value of this story and decided to share it with the world. It's truly a tale of the human spirit that needed to be told. So we were all very curious to hear how Jon got involved in the movie.
Jon Hamm: "I met with Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray who
are the producers of the film. They produced, The Rookie and Miracle, so I
was familiar with their work, and I liked not only the kinds of movies that they made but also the stuff that they've done with Disney. Had a kind of a sensibility that I sparked to. Then I read the script and I know Tommy McCarthy who wrote the script. I've been a big fan of his work as well and was really impressed with the script.
However, 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. And so I kind of Googled around, and looked up some stuff. I learned about it, and I thought well this could be not only a fun project to work on as an actor -- I mean we get to go to India and that could be an interesting experience, too. And I'm, I'm very, very glad I did. We're tremendously proud of the film, and also I made some really good friends on it."
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 really knows him anymore. Um, but no... I felt very responsible towards, J.B., especially after having met him and, and kind of learning his story and learning how profoundly this experience changed his life. We tried to tell that in the film. You know, that this is what actually happened to the guy.
The guy's life was really changed for the better because of this experience. And 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 close to that and I didn't wanna misrepresent him at all, certainly. But he's given me his stamp of approval, so I feel good about my performance."
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, much less India specifically, so I had 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..Like every travel experience. But then when you actually get there and you're there in person, it's in 3D.
The sights and smells and the heat and everything else that makes the experience even more worthwhile. I can't point to anything specifically where I had an epiphany about life or 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, only the tip of the iceberg. So I'd love to go back.
Here's what Jon had to say his favorite thing about filming "Million Dollar Arm" was, as well as his personal favorite scene from an acting standpoint:
Jon Hamm: There are a couple parts I think (were my favorite).
Most of the stuff we shot in India was pretty great to film 'cause we were in the dirt and it was 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. This is the scene when the kids throw J.B. his party. Sort of like 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 it was the honest truth, and J.B. tells this story as well...He felt such responsibility for these kids by that point in their lives, and their career that the idea of him being disappointed in them somehow was soul-crushing to him. He's like, "You could never disappoint me. That's impossible."
'Cause he's their dad at that point, you know, a surrogate dad. The boys 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. And 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."
Jon Hamm: " I think like 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 "Million Dollar Arm" is really about this guy and his life and how it was changed, 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 if I watch two seconds of it, I watch the whole thing and I'm a mess by the end of it.
This movie is like that. It's a family movie but it's set against the backdrop of sports, in particular baseball. But 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. So that's, again back to the first question. That's kind of one of the reasons why I wanted to do this film.
It just felt, richer than just a game where I hope they win the big game, you know, at the end. And that's what I hope we brought through the making of it."
Once we were through chatting, Mr. Hamm was awesome enough to pose for this awesome group photo with us. Yes, I am less than 2 feet away from the deliciousness that is Jon Hamm. Pretty darn unreal!
You can follow "Million Dollar Arm" on social media to stay on top of the latest news, clips and more:
Website and Mobile Site: www.Disney.com/MillionDollarArm
Like on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MillionDollarArm
Follow on Twitter: @DisneyPictures
And remember, be sure to stay tuned for more exclusive interviews with the stars of the film, the real life people whose amazing accomplishments inspired this feel-good story, and for a full movie review!