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Interview: Jon Hamm talks Million Dollar Arm

1 of 1 Jon Hamm in Million Dollar Arm
Jon Hamm in Million Dollar Arm

In cinemas from Friday August 29 as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm, Jon Hamm discusses starring in the baseball film, which is based on a true story.

What was it about this project that attracted you? 

Jon Hamm: "I was intrigued by the fact that it was a true story, and a story that had kind of gone under my radar. And I'm a big sports fan. When I read the script, I looked up the real story online, and as I read a little more about it I was fascinated. So, at a fundamental level I was intrigued. And this is kind of an angle into a sports movie you don't really see very often 'cause it's not traditionally about sports. It's not about a big game or the big thing. It's more of a story about people and how they relate to one another, especially as the story goes on, and we realise that this character is learning a lot about himself as well." 

Tell us about the real JB Bernstein, what impression did he make on you?

"The real JB Bernstein is a little bit different than I am, but he's a big thinker, and is a very successful guy, kind of off his own sweat. He started in trading cards. He worked for a company called Upper Deck, and was very successful in that world and the big explosion of sports memorabilia. And then he got into being an agent and representing athletes. But he's always been a kind of 'outside the box' thinker, which is also very interesting and intriguing for me coming to play the character. He had a financial imperative to get the big idea out there and he came up with something that no one had thought of before. You can't really point to a lot of instances in any business, really, where you meet a guy who comes up with something that no one's thought of before."

Describe your character and his evolution throughout the film.

"Well, when we first meet my character JB, he's sort of a ladies' man. He's very aggressively single, I think is the right way to put it, and very much enjoying his life as a sports agent in Los Angeles and all that that entails. And basically he comes up with this idea to make a tonne of money. This idea is to go to India and find two cricket players out of the sea of 1.8 billion people, and basically market them and turn them into international baseball sensations.

"But what he ends up learning is that he forms a connection with these two kids and realises that he's affecting their lives, and not always positively. And so he makes the decision to actually become a force for positive change in their lives, and becomes much more of a father figure to the boys than I think he ever intended. And he learns what the important things in life are. And that's another thing that resonated with me. 

"A lot of movies have stories of redemption and figuring things out, but this just came from a very real place. And it actually happened. The fact that it's a true story shouldn't be forgotten. This experience actually did change this guy's life."

Tell us about some of the joys that you experienced making the film.

"Well, it was a tremendous opportunity. When you get a chance to go see the world and see some place like India, and get paid for it, it's even better, and hopefully makes a movie that a lot of people are going to see and a lot of people will be moved by. That part was pretty great. I saw some things in India that I never thought I would see. Fortunately, we live in a world where everyone has a camera attached to them 24 hours a day, so I was able to capture a lot of it. And I would send texts back home and be like, 'This happened today', and 'There's a cow walking down the street next to a Rolls-Royce', or whatever.

"It was very interesting and exciting, and it also serves to remind you, as most travelling does, as exciting as it is and as different as it is, it's nice to come home. When we got home it was a very nice experience to have quiet and to have humidity and temperatures in the double digits rather than the triple. And barbeque was nice to come back to, also."

How did working on this film give you a larger understanding of the world?

"I've been fortunate enough in the last 10 years of my life to get to travel a lot more than I did basically in the first three decades of my life. But I'd never been to India. And it is a unique place. It's an exciting, different, chaotic, unique place. There's really nowhere else like it. And the people there are incredibly friendly, incredibly welcoming, joyous - there's always a smile on their face. There, family means so much. You're always welcomed into the groups. That taught me a lot. I love that I got a chance to do it."

What do you hope people take away from this film?

"I think the big message that people should take with them is that home is where the heart is, you know. Family is most important, and there are a lot of ways to define family. You know, I have friends in my personal life who I consider family. I've been taken in by a lot of families in my personal life. So, you create the family that you eventually sort of deserve, and I think if you do it the right way it's a wonderful lesson and, if you do it the wrong way, it's a tough lesson. And JB, I think, finally figured it out, and did it the right way."

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