When you see “based on a true story” title cards in films, audiences usually suspect dramatic liberties to be taken. However, not in the case of director Craig Gillespie’s character based drama, MILLION DOLLAR ARM. The sports-themed picture takes no dramatic license (right “down to the costumes”) in bringing audiences the true-life tale of sports agent J.B. Bernstein’s (played by Job Hamm) struggle to bring two new players – and a million new fans – to major league baseball. Inspiring on many levels, this is quality family entertainment with heaploads of heart and gumption.
Since we had so much fun at the film’s recent press conference in Los Angeles, I thought you too would enjoy a few fun facts I learned about the picture from Hamm, Lake Bell, Rinku Singh, and J.B. Bernstein. So gather your family members and get ready to be inspired!
5. MILLION DOLLAR ARM is for and about families. One of the major themes in Tom McCarthy’s script deals with the notion of family – however they are personally defined. Hamm said, “I’m in a modern family myself. 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. I don’t have kids, but I’ve been a teacher, I’ve been a daycare teacher, I have tons of nieces and nephews and 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. That’s just reason #401 why I responded to the, to the script and I think it is, it is a big part of the journey of this character.” Bell stated, “I do love that idea of having surrogate parents, people that you do look up to regardless. 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 think you do create your own family in many ways and that’s a poignant part of this story when it comes to the family aspect I think.”
4. Jon Hamm didn’t meet the real J.B. Bernstein until they were already shooting. While you might have been quick to assume Hamm spoke with his real-life prior to filming, you can guess again. Bernstein explained, “The first time I met Jon they already were deep into filming. We met him in India. Look I’m just very trite. I’m just a really easy guy. You know I’m a trite character. He’s the best actor out there and he took a great script and did a great job. A lot of my friends who have seen it say, ‘He really nailed you!’ I just laugh it’s so funny. It’s like ‘You know he was halfway through filming before he ever met me?!’ It’s a testament to how this came together and to the type of actors these guys are.” Hamm credits McCarthy’s writing to nail the film’s authenticity. “The last thing you want to do is sort of offend and portray them in some way that rings false. I think it’s just a testament to Tommy’s wonderful script that he got everybody on the page.” Bernstein concurred, “I spent a lot of time with Tom [McCarthy]. He would call me at 3 o’clock in the morning it’s like, “What would Brenda say to you if you did this?” 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.”
3. J.B. Bernstein is not that big of a “prick” in real life. Or so said his wife at one of the film’s press screenings. He said, “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!’” He later added, “I’m still not perfect, but I’m still going in the right direction.”
2. Lake Bell’s character is unlike most stereotypical “Hollywood movie girlfriends.” She said, “I think a testament to Tom McCarthy. I think a sea of gentleman and in a sports movie; perhaps the female character can get left on the sidelines. I felt the character itself is very present and has a lot of energy and somewhat of an emotional catalyst for [J.B.’s] emotional journey. It’s a well-drawn character. She’s smart and she’s layered and sometimes – even for a supporting peripheral character. I mean that’s absolutely rare. So I’m very thankful to be in it. Also Craig’s work sort of encouraged me to be a little tough.”
1. Rinku Singh brought most of us near tears. One of the best things MILLION DOLLAR ARM does in a subtle, soul-stirring manner is further the conversation on role model diversity. The film’s real-life inspiration says, “As growing up kid back in India my goal was to represent my country. My message is for the kids you know – every single human wants to succeed in their life. Succeed is very easy word to say, but what I learned [is] you don’t want to just succeed, you want to succeed better than breathe. 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.” Bernstein clarified, “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?’”
MILLION DOLLAR ARM opens on May 16 and is rated PG.
Courtney Howard is the Senior Editor/ LA Correspondent for VeryAware.com. She also is a contributing writer for ReelVixen.com and ThatsItMommy.com. She resides in Southern California with her husband and perfect little dachshund.