WAMG At The MILLION DOLLAR ARM Press Day
Baseball season is upon us, and so is Disney’s new homerun MILLION DOLLAR ARM, which opens this Friday. Recently, WAMG attended a press day where star (and fellow St. Louis Cardinals fan) Jon Hamm joined co-star Lake Bell along with real-life inspirations for the film JB Bernstein and Rinku Singh to talk about the new summer baseball flick in a small press conference. Also participating were producers Gordon Gray and Joe Roth. Check it out below.
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. Hoping to find a young cricket pitcher he can turn into a major league baseball star, JB travels to India to produce a reality show competition called “The Million Dollar Arm.” With the help of cantankerous but eagle-eyed retired 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.
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?
GORDON GRAY: Mark and I had known JB for many, many years before we even got into the film business and I think, I think it was a Super Bowl right JB that you told Mark you were heading over to India?
JB BERNSTEIN: Yep.
GORDON GRAY: With this crazy idea to find pitching prospects in India. So that’s, that’s the last we, 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 it, 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.
GORDON GRAY: 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, leaving a single guy, a bachelor having a fun life and then through the evolution of this development with the players, becoming a surrogate father and ultimately opening up his heart to find, find love and marriage.
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.
JOE ROTH: 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, that’s a family movie. [LAUGHTER]
JOE ROTH: No, this is ah, you know I’m involved in a lot of movies.
JOE ROTH: And, and every once in a while something turns out far greater than your greatest dreams and ah, 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 ah when you see the finished product, you know we’ve screened this picture and ah 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.
Yeah. 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?
JON HAMM: No. I, 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, I am a huge baseball fan and somehow this went, flew under my radar and I didn’t know and so I immediately like two hours later was in like a Google hall of like you know finding out everything I could about this and I was like oh my God, it’s, this actually happened and that element to the story it dove-tails with what, what Joe and Gordon just said, it’s just this incredibly uplifting story about – about thinking outside the box and, 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, 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, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the finished product and how much, it’s much more than a sum of, of its – much more than just a sum of its parts. It’s a, it has this wonderful message and it’s nice that I get to be in something that has a you know, my day job I play you know not the greatest guy in the world and it’s nice to, it’s nice to – no offense. But it’s, why would I offend you by saying that? That doesn’t make any sense [speaking to Lake].
LAKE BELL: I don’t know. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: I was offended, I was the offending link. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: I was of course talking about my role in Children’s Hospital.
LAKE BELL: Yes. It’s offensive.
JON HAMM: Which is offense to Lake personally.
LAKE BELL: Personally.
JON HAMM: But no, it’s, it’s nice to, to you know portray that and, and, and to make this movie that as you, as you rightly point out is just, it’s a family film. It’s a film that I can tell my friends to take their children to.
LAKE BELL: Yeah.
JON HAMM: And not be like, but maybe… don’t watch the part where I say horrible things.
LAKE BELL: Yeah.
JON HAMM: It, it works and it works as a story and it works on, on several levels and, and it’s a testament to not only JB and Rinku and Dinesh’s amazing true story, but it’s also testament to Lake’s wonderful performance – the boys are so fantastic in it and bring so much soul and depth to what could be just a one note kind of performance. They bring this whole world of emotion to it and, and it resonates and I was so pleased to see how Craig expertly managed the tone of the film to not veer into the world of sentimentality or sappiness or hokiness or over-earnestness or any of that and just stay true to the, to the basics of the story which has this incredibly emotional component to it and having spoken to JB and, and learning that – these events changed his life positively. It’s, it’s a tremendous honor to get to be able to tell that story and I, I’m so pleased with it and as Joe said, I’m so proud of it, this, this thing that we made and I just want people to see it, so tell everyone to go see it. [LAUGHTER]
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.
LAKE BELL: We’ve, yeah, we have never done.
JON HAMM: We’ve known each other for a million years.
LAKE BELL: Yeah I was going to say 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, this was.
JON HAMM: I play a, I play a person who, basically I play Malin Akerman in a wig. [LAUGHTER] So, it’s weird.
LAKE BELL: That’s on Children’s Hospital, not in this movie.
JON HAMM: It’s a very, yeah this – that is not in the film. If you haven’t seen the film Malin Akerman is not in the film.
LAKE BELL: It’s different.
JON HAMM: And there are very few wigs.
LAKE BELL: It has nothing to do with Mad Men. But also I think a testament to, 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. You know Brenda – 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, for your emotional journey.
JON HAMM: Yeah, the, 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 fucked up.
LAKE BELL: It’s like not my fault. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: And it’s horrible and she’s a terrible person.
LAKE BELL: It’s an accident.
JON HAMM: And, and there’s this kind of like angry thing where she basically pushes back and says like no, you’re being you know a jerk, like stop being a jerk.
LAKE BELL: And he was, he was being a jerk.
JON HAMM: And it’s true and it was this, it was actually kind of a lovely scene and it was one of the first things we did I think.
LAKE BELL: Yeah and I think that’s, it’s just a very honest account of how a strong woman who sort of respects herself would act.
JON HAMM: Would actually, yeah would actually stand up for herself and not be some sort of speed bump.
LAKE BELL: Yes, exactly.
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.
LAKE BELL:. 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, I’m very thankful to it and I you know I think, also Craig’s work in keeping it tonally you know and he sort of, he encouraged me to be a little tough you know and I know JB said that the real Brenda you, you – you said she’s a bad ass right?
JB BERNSTEIN: 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. [LAUGHTER]
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?
JB BERNSTEIN: 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 lot, 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 that, you know that’s reflected in what Jon and Lake are talking about is you know, 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 and, 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. [LAUGHTER]
JB BERNSTEIN: That was. It was 100% my fault. They’re, 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, so yeah when I watched the movie, my wife and I, you know we went to watch it and ah 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, you know 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?
JB BERNSTEIN: 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?
JON HAMM: 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.
LAKE BELL: It’s almost unbelievable.
JON HAMM: Unbelievable story and yet he, he, imbues it with so much more and so much more emotion and, and love I guess. It’s hard to talk about without sounding hokey, but it just has this beautiful sensibility to it that – 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 to like when the lights come up at the end of the movie to not be like what did I just watch.
LAKE BELL: Yeah.
JON HAMM: Who was the bad guy and why did the things crash and what blew up and and why is the President mad. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: When you get out of a movie. It used to be the way you did when you got out of a movie you felt something and you were like you were either emotional or you wanted to like be a better person.
LAKE BELL: Yes.
JON HAMM: And this is that kind of movie and it’s, it’s a pleasure to be a part of it.
LAKE BELL: And I think also the good news is that I mean I don’t know ditty about baseball.
JON HAMM: You don’t know Diddy?
LAKE BELL: I don’t know ditty. No I actually do know Diddy. [Implying P.Diddy] [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: I had a feeling…
LAKE BELL: No. I don’t know squat. Is that better?
JON HAMM: Better.
LAKE BELL: Is there anyone named Squat?
JON HAMM: Hank Squat.
LAKE BELL: Who is Hank Squat?
JON HAMM: He’s a great guy.
LAKE BELL: He’s a great, fantastic man. [LAUGHTER]
LAKE BELL: How is Hank?
JON HAMM: He’s a producer.
LAKE BELL: No I don’t know, I don’t know squat about baseball or sports for that matter, so you know in watching the movie and also just thinking, reading the story I’m always utterly moved and I think that it’s because there’s something about raw talent that’s undeniable and hard work which you know you can just, I mean anybody can relate to that and I am very moved by great sports movies that have an emotional core because of that. Not that I know and relate to how to do things, sporty, don’t. I wouldn’t even know what to do. [LAUGHTER]
LAKE BELL: But I think that’s, that’s what makes me proud of it as well which is like you said that you’re whole family, there’s not one family member that you would not recommend to see this.
JON HAMM: Yeah.
LAKE BELL: ‘Cause yeah I have the same thing where I’m like Dad, don’t see this because there’s like a weird boob moment. [LAUGHTER]
LAKE BELL: So this that.
JON HAMM: Are you talking about my work or yours? [LAUGHTER]
LAKE BELL: Touche’
JON HAMM: I have one weird boob.
LAKE BELL: Yeah, yeah that’s it. The left, the left one.
JON HAMM: The left one. But anyway so you know I do think that it is relatable and utterly moving regardless because of, of that, you know the sheer hard work that pays off to success I mean it’s sort of undeniable and a kind of beautifully moving thing.
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.
RINKU SINGH: 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 man like him to play in my role and you know obviously what I think of this movie that you know I never have seen any movie like that before. It’s, it’s such an inspiring. It’s not just something that have a movie made. This is something that you know seeing a bunch of American kids come in here like for me was totally a new, new you know planet. Being here it’s just so amazing seeing all different new thing, you know. This is something I think a lot of American kids 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, dollar signing bonus, they don’t know what to do with it. You know they’re just young and seeing this movie how I have struggled you know coming, 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. Apologize that word we have using how we have you know treated, we never thought that 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, something really, we learn it after seeing your struggle 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 young man, you know not just in America, all around the world. I would say you know see it and it, it’s something reality that where we have been through you know and thanks to Pittsburgh Pirates organization otherwise we wouldn’t be here today. [LAUGHTER]
RINKU SINGH: There the one keeping me alive, you know, so thanks to them and thanks to, thanks to Disney.
JOE ROTH: 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. [LAUGHTER]
JOE ROTH: And, and so for me sitting up here it is, it’s again, very, very few movies come together in a way where they turn out to be something much more than what you expected and it was a great script by Tom, it’s a wonderful cast and, and the director, Craig [Gillespie] you know who had done LARS AND THE REAL GIRL and FRIGHT NIGHT, you know it’s, it’s all, you know it was hard for me to make, frankly to make the connection but then when we actually see the movie come out, it is an un-cynical movie in a very cynical time and so it’s a very important movie to me personally and I think to, to all the rest of us too. I just want to say that many eons ago I directed a movie called WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING which had some of the same. It didn’t have baseball, but it had some of the same sort of came out of left field and I had a chance to cast the biggest female star at the time, and choose to cast an unknown named Sandra Bullock and I felt the same way seeing Lake in this movie. I think that.
LAKE BELL: Thank you.
JOE ROTH: If she wants to stop doing voiceovers.
LAKE BELL: Hey.
JOE ROTH: And crap like that. [LAUGHTER]
JOE ROTH: She’s got a big career in front of her. [LAUGHTER]
And a great filmmaker herself.
LAKE BELL: Thank you.
If you saw IN A WORLD.
LAKE BELL: Thank you, I appreciate that.
Last year, a terrific film.
LAKE BELL: You guys! [LAUGHTER]
Gordon, I wanted, something Joe said.
JON HAMM: No, no, no, no, let’s keep taking about Lake, she’s getting super embarrassed. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: I want to see how red she gets. [LAUGHTER]
Gordon I just wanted to ask you, because we talked about movies that are inspiring as well to and you guys really, you and Mark have really specialized in, in that a little bit here and I’m just wondering, what was it about those kind of stories that you wanted to bring to the screen and how difficult has it been through the course of your career to get these kind of movies made, because it’s not exactly the obvious Hollywood smash hit sequel like he’s talking about they’re making now?
GORDON GRAY: Mark and I have been very fortunate to have a deal at Disney and Disney allows us to make these, these kinds of movies. I think they expect them from us. So, it’s always hard to get a movie made, but I think for us with those expectations it’s a clearer path and when we think about a movie I just respond viscerally. If it’s something that grabs me emotionally that’s something I think I can sell at the studio and to writers and the actors, directors so – this, this one, and most of the ones I do get are very easy. We sat down with Sean and he got it right away.
Sean Bailey who’s here. [APPLAUSE]
JOE ROTH: I’ll clap for that. [LAUGHTER]
GORDON GRAY: The first writer we went to and our, our dream writer was Tom McCarthy and he said yes and we heard that Jon was very picky, but he’s the first guy we went to and he said yes so this has been a, a real sweet experience for us.
Yeah hi. 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?
JON HAMM: You know it, it’s not difficult to draw a parallel with – 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 we love – no it’s not working? Okay bye. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: 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 like you know, 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, the fact that people either choose you or don’t. I know Lake’s, we’ve both had very similar careers in that sense of just like you, you, you run up against a wall and then oh yeah, I guess they hired Brad Pitt, I’m moving on. I’m sorry you lost so many roles to Brad Pitt.
LAKE BELL: It’s been hard. [LAUGHTER] It’s very difficult.
JON HAMM: She was up for MONEYBALL and it didn’t work out. I felt bad. You would have, you would have been good.
LAKE BELL: That’s fine, it’s fine. I don’t know why we’re talking about that stuff.
JON HAMM: It’s okay. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: I lost the role to Jonah Hill. I mean it happens. [LAUGHTER]
LAKE BELL: It’d be a very different movie.
JON HAMM: It would have been. It would have been a better movie. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: Not it wouldn’t have, that’s not true. It’s a wonderful film.
LAKE BELL: It was great.
JON HAMM: We loved it, yes indeed. We would have been, we would have been better.
LAKE BELL: I know.
JON HAMM: But we can talk about that later.
LAKE BELL: Let’s just talk about it later Jon.
JON HAMM: Okay. I’ve totally forgot your question?
JON HAMM: Well yes of course and India I had never been and, and being thrust into, with the chaos of India was an eye opener and, and let me understand on a visceral level what JB went through which is literally like coming up with this idea is one thing, then sort of willing it into existence is a whole other thing. And we show a bit of it in the film, but the practicalities of doing that in India when you have never been there, have no experience over there is, is it is impossible, it is impossible and yet it happened and this is the result and this incredible young man who is an incredible athlete and literally living my dream as a child of being a professional baseball player which I kind of hate him for. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: But like, the unbelievable hard work that both of them went through to will this thing into existence is so inspiring to so many people and what Rinku was saying about like a lot of athletes these days are you know precious and sort of entitled and all of these other things and they see this story and they see what this guy went through and where he came from and is still as successful as he is and their eyes are opened and the scales fall off and they go oh my God you’ve got to be kidding me and it puts everything into perspective, in the best way and that’s again, that’s just reason number 400 that I’m, I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this project.
Alright JB I wanted to ask you about Jon’s portrayal of you. Were you as big of a prick as he was? [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: Alright, here we go! [LAUGHTER] Sunday morning, hello kids! [LAUGHTER]
JB BERNSTEIN: It’s actually, you know the answer, the short answer to your question is yes. [LAUGHTER] But you know it wasn’t that I was trying to be a prick, I, I was so focused in my life on business I’d become kind of myopic and the only thing I really took pride in was the deal and getting deals done for my clients and that was my sole source of pride so it kind of became this self-fulfilling prophecy that you know I was defined as a person by being an agent. There’s a point actually in the movie where I’m yelling at Brenda, or he’s yelling at Lake, in the hospital and Brenda and I actually went to see the movie the other night and one of the people in front of us, this woman in front of us who didn’t know I was sitting behind here said wow this guy JB is a real prick and Brenda’s going watch the rest of the movie, he turns out good. [LAUGHTER] So the, the reality is that having Rinku and Dinesh thrust into my life opened me up mostly to the importance of family and having people around you that you love and that you love them and you support each other and opened me up to the possibility of having a wife and kid of my own and Brenda kind of came along and filled that role, so yes I was a prick, but I’m going in the right direction. I’m still not perfect, but I’m, I’m still going in the right direction. I’ve got a beautiful daughter and a great wife and I’m, I owe it mostly to Rinku and Dinesh who started me down that path.
This is for Rinku and so you achieved the American Dream in the broadest of terms, but it, the movie tells us that was not your dream, so I was curious what did you hope and expect to do with your life when you were a kid and then what would you tell kids about how to approach their future?
RINKU SINGH: That’s a great question right here. By the way, I’m still living the dream. As growing up kid back in India my goal was to, to represent my country and be an Olympian player, but 2007 I qualified for Olympics, but never really had a chance just because of this man right here, wanted to give me a million dollar arm just throwing a baseball, so never really had chance to go to Olympic and came to America. That, that wasn’t really, that was really, really hard decision to make. A lot of people make fun of me and I was just 18-year-old kid not knowing nothing about America, not knowing anything about a culture, leaving friends, family, graduation, didn’t even have chance to go to finish my, my degree. I was just literally going to school and trying to get my degree, but really didn’t happen, but that was really giving me a chance to help my family, bring them up where they were before and it really changed my life and you know my message is for the kids you know – every single, single human wants to succeed in their life. Succeed is very easy word to say, it’s succeed, but what I learned succeed you don’t want to just succeed, you want to succeed better than breathe. It’s just, you’re dying, what can you say in a minute that, what can I say to my mom, what can I say to my dad, fiancee, girlfriend, wife? That’s how bad you want to succeed just like bad as breathe. Since I signed a professional contract there’s so many, so many things I had to do differently and if my team was doing workout for two hours, obviously I have to do five, six hour, seven hour just because of I’ve not been that way. I didn’t play baseball growing up so I always had to put in my 110% effort. It doesn’t matter how you feel, how much you sleep you know, what’s going on in family, girlfriend, it doesn’t matter, but still I have to get up, show up, dressed up and be on time, give 110%. That’s my message. So it’s not about just seeing a dream it’s about following daily basis what you’re doing, know what you’re doing, who you hang out, how much you sleep, what you eat. It’s being, respect the opportunity.
This is for Jon. So getting back to the family friendly aspect, I think this is the first role of yours that I can show my seven-year-old daughter and I was wondering as an actor.
JON HAMM: She didn’t see Bridesmaids? [LAUGHTER] You’re missing out, it’s a wonderful story. [LAUGHTER] Whatever.
As an actor did you because you’re known for your edgier roles. Did you feel I don’t know if intimidated is the right word, but limited at all by the PG rating?
JON HAMM: Absolutely not. It’s, it gets back to what Joe was saying. It’s, we live in this incredibly cynical time and listening. I almost started crying when Rinku was talking about what he was talking about in the struggle, that he was talking about it. It’s such a beautiful story and it’s a story about working hard and I honestly don’t know if you guys know what. I still play baseball, terribly. But the, the journey that these two boys went on from literally never having seen a baseball to getting to an elite performance level is, is an impossible journey and, and the hard work that it entails and exactly what he was saying, like he, he has to put in 200% because he did have, he didn’t grow up playing this sport, hasn’t been doing it since he was in third grade and going on traveling teams and all this other, that all these other kids have had. He started from zero and got to 100 in a year. It’s mind-blowing, but it doesn’t’ happen without an incredible work ethic and an incredible commitment on both of their parts to, to focus on this and to really, really achieve and what Rinku was saying it’s, it’s because it’s, he wants to be proud of him himself and his family and represent his country and all of these things. Those were the things that I responded to in the movie, those emotions and those things. I, there’s, for me it doesn’t need to be edgy to be good, it needs to be good to be good and again, I, I sound like a broken record, but it’s, it’s, it’s come through so wonderfully and Craig’s you know shepherding of the tone of the film that it just represents all of these wonderful things and doesn’t veer off into over-earnestness or sentimentality or whatever and so it wasn’t intimidating at all, it was inspiring and fun and you know I can still go do dumb, kind of fun.
LAKE BELL: You gonna pitch something?
JON HAMM: I don’t know, what do you want to do?
LAKE BELL: I don’t know, just something edgy.
JON HAMM: We can do something edgy next. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: But this is, this is what it is and we’re obviously, there’s a reason we’re here early in the morning on a Sunday. We’re all very proud of it. So yeah, I, I’m thrilled to be in a PG movie.
Yes, I wanted to ask Rinku, back when the first try-outs, most of the contestants couldn’t get past I think it was like 40 or 50, what do you think was in you or that you had to contribute that made you basically double that and stand out? Thank you.
RINKU SINGH: This is, we’re talking about back in India right? Okay. When you, here’s what I believe. When you’re really trying to do something, you don’t do perfect. For me it was kind of joke you know. For me it was really like a joke, JB who?, who’s the JB guy going to give you a million dollars throwing a baseball. For me it was just, I got forced by my athletic coach go there and try ‘cause and I really don’t wanted to go there because I thought it was kind of crazy but you know. [LAUGHTER] Since I go to know JB, and don’t know how to throw baseball. I mean I got the baseball, I don’t know what to do with it and we do speed packing and javelin throw which is you have to make like flamingo style so that’s, that’s what JB called flamingo style. So you know basically just didn’t thought about going to America you know never heard about a baseball and you know went there just for fun and it turned out to you know become a huge dream now.
JB BERNSTEIN: I’ll add, Rinku’s the personification of the thesis of this whole thing which is that there’s all this raw talent in India because they don’t have collegiate athletics, they don’t have pro sports leagues and if these things didn’t exist in the United States, guys like Michael Jordan wouldn’t even know it would be helpful to have a jump shot, if there was no pro basketball, so these athletes would just be kind of out milling around in the world and so our thought was that there’d be guys like Rinku who never picked up a baseball, who had no idea they could throw fast and then they would just pick it up and do it and the reality is, it’s just like in the movie. We’re sitting there watching this guy standing there on one leg and we’re like there’s no way this is going to be good and we’re just watching like it’s going to be a train wreck and he throws it, it’s 86 miles an hour the first time he ever picked up a baseball. And you just say.
JON HAMM: That’s impossible by the way. [LAUGHTER]
JB BERNSTEIN: Right.
JON HAMM: That’s impossible.
JB BERNSTEIN: And yet it happened and that’s the thing that we, that’s kind of the whole premise that my partners and I created this on, which is that at the end of the day there was all these guys walking around like Rinku who are just doing other things because there is no baseball, there’s no value to knowing that you have this skill, so there and like anything you have to sift through a lot of – if we did this contest in the United States there’d be a lot of guys who threw 40, but you’d find that diamond in the rough and, and with Rinku and Dinesh and a lot of the other guys who were in the finals. I mean there were 30 guys in India we found that were throwing over 85 miles an hour, none of which had ever seen a baseball and that was just with 38,000 kids. So when you think about the percentages of how many thousands of kids are probably just walking around India you know, working for their dad, at college, in the military, in various jobs because they don’t know there’s any value to it. So, Rinku is the personification of our thesis.
For Lake and Jon. For Lake and Jon. How people create families is one of the big themes in this film. What experiences from your own family life did you bring to your performance?
LAKE BELL: Interesting.
JON HAMM: Lake got married right before the movie.
LAKE BELL: That’s true.
JON HAMM: And did you have to miss your honeymoon or postpone?
LAKE BELL: Yeah, no.
JON HAMM: Did you postpone?
LAKE BELL: We, we postponed yeah. But no I got married.
JON HAMM: Sorry.
LAKE BELL: June 1, June 1 and then we started shooting two days after that so yeah family was definitely on my mind and relationships and what not. But yeah I mean you speak to the family part of it. Did you draw anything from your family?
JON HAMM: I mean you know, I, I’m in a modern family myself. Everyone’s like when are you and Jen going to get married? We’ve been together for 16 years and yet we’ve, we’re very, we’re as married as anybody I guess, I don’t know and, and it’s, it is however you define it is what it is and you can see in JB and Rinku’s relationship the real guys, that there is this sort of paternal and loving relationship there and that was part of the thing that again like attracted me to this, this guy learning that and what that means. I don’t have kids, but I’ve been a teacher, I’ve been a daycare teacher, I’ve been, I have tons of nieces and nephews and I feel, I feel like all of these people are my family. I lost my parents very young. I’ve had a lot of surrogate parents in my life you know family, friends, family friends who have sort of adopted me in many ways so I have a very fluid definition of family as well. And again that’s just reason 401 why I, I responded to the, to the script and I think it is, it is a big part of the journey of this character. Go. [LAUGHTER]
LAKE BELL: Well no, I thought that was, no I thought that was great because I was thinking about.
JON HAMM: Yeah it was great.
LAKE BELL: It is. [LAUGHTER]
JON HAMM: It was super great.
LAKE BELL: No I like the ‘Modern Family’ aspect of it because, because I do.
JON HAMM: ABC, Thursdays. [LAUGHTER]
LAKE BELL: It’s a great show. But I do you know.
JON HAMM: ABC is a Disney-owned network. [LAUGHTER]
LAKE BELL: I think that you know your, the unit that you, we all forge or that you three certainly forged and even with Pitobash, actually, it is a very modern unit, but it does feel like a hearth in many ways and I think that’s all that, that’s all that those guys had, so it becomes this, you know I come form also a kind of disjointed, a couple of divorces and all kinds of steps and halves and you know I do love that idea of having surrogate parents, people that you do look up to regardless.
LAKE BELL: Of who your parents are you know and those are your mentors and those are your, those are your spirit animals to walk through life and figure out, I like how they do things or I look up to them and I think you do create your own family in many ways and that is, that’s a poignant part of this story when it comes to the family aspect I think.
Hi, it’s a personal belief of mine that with our talents in life that we should use those talents to benefit others, so my question is for JB and Rinku. Are you, do you do anything, or what are you doing back in India to better help kids in India reach their goals, whatever their goals are in life – education, sports, whatever it may be. Are you doing anything maybe with baseball to help kids realize that their dreams can be achieved because I know in India it’s totally different, a totally different world than here in America and, and sometimes kids don’t always get that ability or chance that you may have received.
JB BERNSTEIN: This is probably the best question to end this press conference on. The reality of the situation is yes. We’re going something. It’s a movie called Million Dollar Arm. [LAUGHTER] And so the reality is that and Rinku said this in one of his interviews yesterday and talk about almost crying, you know I started to tear up and he said you know there’s a half a billion kids in India in these villages who grew up just like him.
JON HAMM: That’s half a billion, by the way.
JB BERNSTEIN: Who grew up just like him. They grew up and they basically – it’s not that they were unhappy but they have a pre-determined life, they’re going to work for their dad. If they’re very lucky like Rinku and they’re a gifted athlete maybe they can compete for the Olympics, maybe they can get into the military. His brother got a great government job because he was a long distance runner. Two of his brothers are in the black commandos which is you know the special forces, but if you’re not a gifted athlete in that respect that you can turn into kind of a government job pretty much you’re going to end up working for your family and you’re going to perpetuate what your family is. So it’s gotten to the point where in these villages over thousands of years there’s no hope in the sense like we have hope here. You can live in any circumstance in the United States and there’s someone just like you who succeeded in exactly what you want to do. You come from terrible circumstances, you want to be a writer, there’s Richard Wright, you want to be president, it’s Barack Obama. There’s an example literally of someone just like you and in India that doesn’t exist and I started to tear up yesterday. I’m trying not to right now, when Rinku was talking and he said these kids are seeing their dream through me. It’s not that they’re going to want to be a baseball pitcher, but the first question, the first spark of hope is when you ask yourself the question what gift did God give me that I can develop, that I can respect that talent and that I can better my life and get out of this village and help my family, do what Rinku did. Build my family a house, have my dad retire. Take care of my brother’s wedding. You know we were just in India for his brother’s wedding. These are things that are dreams that every kid has, you know you want to make your family, you give them a better life and when people see this story that will be hopefully the first step in that, you know can I create an outreach program to half a billion kids? This is it. We’re not going to get a bigger megaphone than a Disney movie to go out there and show a real story about someone just like them who went and did something not impossible or improbable, something that’s never been done in the history of the world, not just in India. No one’s ever gone from a position of not hearing of a sport to signing a pro contract in ten months and within 13 months of this kid stepping on U.S. soil he actually won a game for the Pirates. He knew so little about baseball at that point that they’re mobbing him on the mound and like we won, we won, he’s like yeah we won. They’re like no you won and he’s like how can a relief pitcher win a game? You know it, it literally he was so, you know so early in his development as a player and to me that’s the inspiration that kids need. It’s the impetus, it’s the catalyst that says I can do something too, so maybe I’m smart at science and I can be a doctor, maybe I’m going to be a great lawyer, maybe I’m going to be a politician, but it’s someone like them who came from a village like theirs and a family like theirs that has done something, he’s been to the United States, he’s pitched in Australia, he’s pitched in the Dominican Republic, he’s met the president. His jersey is in the presidential archives. This is an insane piece of motivation that if a kid can’t take away motivation from this story, nothing will motivate them, so it’s a great question to end on and we thank Disney because I as an individual, even major league baseball couldn’t put this type of amplification on this story that they’re going to be able to put, so that pressure’s on you Sean. [LAUGHTER]
Directed by Craig Gillespie from a screenplay written by Tom McCarthy, Disney’s drama “Million Dollar Arm” stars Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Lake Bell and Alan Arkin. The producers are Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray and Joe Roth. The executive producers are Palak Patel, Kevin Halloran, Bill Simmons and Connor Schell. A.R. Rahman composed the score.