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Jon Hamm goes to bat for the baseball drama 'Million Dollar Arm'

Jon Hamm
Jon Hamm
Walt Disney Pictures

In the dramatic film “Million Dollar Arm” (which is based on a true story) sports agent JB Bernstein (played by Jon Hamm) has reached a turning point in his career: Saving his job rests with finding an exceptionally gifted young cricket pitcher in India, who can be trained for an American major league baseball team. Not surprisingly, JB faces a lot of skeptics who doubt that his plan will work.

Jon Hamm at the Los Angeles premiere of "Million Dollar Arm"
Getty Images

JB travels to India, where he recruits two promising players: Rinku (played by Suraj Sharma) and Danesh (played by Madhur Mittal), who travel to America with JB and stay and his home. As bachelor JB gets to know the two young men, he starts to feel paternal toward them and starts to develop romantic feelings for his neighbor Brenda (played by Lake Bell). Here is what Hamm, Bell, Singh, Bernstein and producers Joe Roth and Gordon Gray said at the Los Angeles press conference for “Million Dollar Arm.”

Gordon, how did the movie "Million Dollar Arm" start?

Gray: Mark [Ciardi, one of the other producers of “Million Dollar Arm”] and I have known JB [Bernstein] for many, many years, before we even got into the film business. I think it was at the Super Bowl, right JB?

Bernstein: Yeah.

Gray: When you said you were heading over to India with this crazy idea to find pitching prospects in India. That’s the last we talked about it. And then, when JB came back, and Rinku and Dinesh had been signed by Pittsburgh, they thought this would be a great idea for a documentary. And we immediately recognized that it had great potential for a feature film.

Jon, this is a terrific performance in a big leading role that is wildly different from your Don Draper character on "Mad Men." What was it about the “Million Dollar Arm” script and this story that interested you? Did you know anything about this true story?

Hamm: No. I read the script, finished the script and loved it, and then I looked back to the title page and went, “Wait a minute, this is true?!” I am a huge baseball fan, and somehow this flew under my radar. I didn’t know. So, two hours later, I was in a Google hole, finding out everything I could about this. I was like, “Oh, my god, this actually happened.”

And that element is this incredibly uplifting story about thinking outside the box, and really following through with something, and working hard and succeeding. This character that I play is about 180 degrees from Don Draper. It’s affirming, it’s uplifting, 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 pleasantly surprised when I saw the finished product. It’s much more than a sum of its parts. It has this wonderful message. It’s nice that I get to be in something that like this because, in my day job, I play not the greatest guy in the world. This is a family film. It’s a film that I can tell my friends to take their children to.

It works as a story, and it works on several levels. It’s a testament not only to JB and Rinku and Dinesh’s amazing true story, but it’s also a testament to Lake Bell’s wonderful performance, and the boys are so fantastic in it. They bring so much soul and depth to what could be just a one-note performance. They bring this whole world of emotion to it, and it resonates.

I was so pleased to see how Craig [Gillespie, director of “Million Dollar Arm”] expertly managed the tone of the film, to not veer into the world of sentimentality, sappiness, hokiness, over-earnestness or any of that, and just stay true to the basics of the story, which has this incredibly emotional component to it. And having spoken to JB, I learned that these events changed his life positively.

It’s a tremendous honor to get to be able to tell that story and I’m so pleased with it. I’m so proud of this thing that we made. And I just want people to see it, so tell everyone to go see it.

For more info: "Million Dollar Arm"

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