Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill grace the cover of New York Magazine, ahead of their new movie ‘Moneyball’ being released next month. I cannot WAIT to see this movie! It has all the elements of a good – family film. It’s going to be really nice to see Brad Pitt in something the whole family can watch. I nice feel-good movie. It’s been a while!
Here’s a bit from the interview, which talks about how ‘Moneyball’ almost didn’t happen, how the movie was an obsession of Brad’s, and how it almost cost Stephen Soderbergh his career. Makes me want to see the movie even more!
The closer we get to fall, the more we root for long shots. And Moneyball, which opens September 23, is one such underdog. Michael Lewis’s 2003 book focused on Billy Beane, the general manager of the then-impoverished Oakland A’s, who used a kind of quantitative analysis known as sabermetrics to create a winning team and, more miraculously, to combat the huge payroll inequities between baseball’s richest and poorest organizations. Beane’s quixotic attempts to reform a hidebound system and turn a ragtag starting lineup of last-chancers into champions forms Moneyball’s heart. But consider that the above summary hinges on words like sabermetrics and payroll inequities, and you begin to understand why—even with the dogged support of Brad Pitt—Moneyball took nearly a decade, three directors, three writers, an almost complete recasting, and a public collapse before it got made. “There were some hard days,” says Pitt. By which he means years.
…There were problems, beginning at the source. Lewis’s book is less a narrative than a riveting Gladwellian case study in which a single outlier occasions a series of meditations on the risk-averse institution of baseball. This is not something that screams adaptation, Pitt says, citing “the difficulty of making a movie whose front window is dressed with economics and science and math.”
Pitt came aboard in late 2007 to play Beane and quickly “became obsessed” as well. “I saw it as a story about justice,” he says. “How is a team with a $40 million payroll going to compete with a team with a $140 million payroll and another $100 million in reserves? Any talent they grow is going to get poached by the rich teams. That became really interesting to me.”
For Pitt, Moneyball also evoked “films about process,” particularly the seventies movies he loved. “I thought of The Conversation: How do you tap a phone? Or Thief, with Jimmy Caan: How do you crack a safe?” Pitt says. “And I saw in it a guy who had an obsessive quality like Popeye Doyle,” from The French Connection. “I don’t really like big character-arc epiphanies. What I most loved about those seventies films is that the characters were the same at the end as at the beginning. It was the world around them that had shifted.” In Beane, he says, “I saw a man going up against a system, questioning the reasoning: Just because we’ve been doing it this way for 150 years, why shouldn’t we change it?”
[Director Bennett] Miller knew Hill socially and felt he could thrive in the role. “Jonah is brilliant in a way that might not be evident from the roles he’s played before,” Miller says. “He has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of movies. And I also knew he was interested in breaking out of whatever box he was in.” For his part, Hill felt he’d found a project—and a director—that might allow him to grow up a little. “A lot of times you’re funny as a way of not having to say anything real about yourself. Bennett knew that there are whole days when I’m not funny at all,” he says, laughing. “And this character has sweet moments, but no jokes or wisecracks.”
“Jonah’s a revelation in this thing—he’s a study in reserve,” says Pitt, who saw Hill’s potential in his earlier films. “I think the most interesting work that’s been going on in the last couple of years is what the comedy guys have been doing. Guys like Jonah and Russell Brand and [Seth] Rogen and a few others … they picked up on an irreverence that started with Adam Sandler and continued with Will Ferrell, but they’ve been grounding it in a kind of pathos and humanity. I find it really strong work.”
“I don’t mind the struggle as long as the work amounts to something in the end,” says Pitt, who ended up with a producer credit as well. “It was really Bennett who finally cracked it. His anxiety not to do anything conventional ultimately formed what this would be. At the same time, everyone involved in Moneyball, at every stage, was very passionate. But what most everyone gleaned from the book was very different. I look at the movie now, and I feel everyone’s fingerprints are on it. It’s been … well, listen. It’s been an interesting process.”