September is the stretch run in the pennant race in baseball, but in the film world, it marks just the beginning of the ever-longer awards season.
To get their quest for gold off on the right foot, Brad Pitt and his "Moneyball" collaborators are meeting with a crowd of eager journalists on the second day of the Toronto International Film Festival, pitching and explaining the baseball-as-life drama that is expected to be one of the bigger hits of the fall.
In the film, which is based on Michael Lewis' 2003 account of the Oakland Athletics' sabermetrics revolution, Pitt plays Billy Beane, a washed up former Major League bust who has reemerged as a daring -- and desperate -- visionary in a world of haves and have nots. In a triumphant switch to the serious, Jonah Hill plays Peter Brand, a fictionalized amalgamation of Pitt's untraditional assistants with a mind that computes numbers, not old scout tropes and superstitions.
Directed by Bennett Miller after an infamous production halt under original helmer Steven Soderbergh, the film is one of the major attractions at TIFF, and below, the Huffington Post takes you inside the big event.
Don't get me wrong, I've acted for a long time. It's just that, in baseball, we all are actors who do this for living, but in baseball, there's Derek Jeter and Scott Hatteberg. There's a guy who is not the highest on the payroll but is still an essential part of the world that he's in, but there's huge stars in baseball. And talking about the question about being inspired, I'm playing a character who is like who I am and what I do. Don't get me wrong -- I'm really famous in my home town.
Philip Seymour Hoffman:
Everyone at this table is in the top 5%. Most actors don't work. We're really lucky.
Jonah Hill is mocking the press for not so gently insinuating that Brad Pitt is super successful, and Chris Pratt is... some dude. Haven't they seen 'Parks and Recreation'?
I'm a sucker for an underdog story. The title of the book is Moneyball, how these guys won in an unfair game. To me, these guys were going up against, because we were doing something the same way for so long, does that make it right?... That speaks to me. If we were inventing the automobile today, would it run on a foreign resource that we'd have to go to war for, that it'd take so much of our GDP? No, we'd probably make it run like our laptops.
Philip Seymour Hoffman:
I found it inspiring that there's a guy in the middle of his life that all of a sudden turns back at his life and looks at it and becomes obsessed with having to deal with what happened before. Thats inspiring. You almost feel like he's now going to Ground Hog Day himself until that day is gone, and he can sit in the stand sand watch the game, and he can enjoy a baseball game and he an enjoy his life again, but he is obsessed with somehow he can turn back into his life and look at that. But in the film, no one can say that -- Billy Beane can't come into my office and say 'I need to look at my life.' it'd be like, 'Woah, Billy, that's too much for me.' But i think that speaks to a time in our lives that it speaks to me.
This is really surreal. In terms of Scott Hatteberg, being a working class baseball player, I think as an actor that's who I am, most people dont know who I am, I dont get paid a shitload of money or anything, you guys got me really cheap, I'm kind of like Scott Hatteberg like that. I can't really speak to seeing the film like an audience, what they would think, but to me what this film is inspiring, hanging out with real baseball players... I woudl take this baseball team from any other baseball movie ever and ewe'd kick their asses..it inspired me to become a bigger fan of baseball and join a softball league at work.
It's ironic that we're sitting here, Amy and Doug who run Sony, because when I was making the movie, i never related to Billy or my character, I related to Chad Bradford [sidearming reliever], who said no one really took a chance on me before. "Superbad" is the reason I know any of you here, Amy and Doug and Judd Apatow gave me that opportunity, where I was a very unlikely person to be the star of a big motion picture, and again with this movie, Brad and Bennett and Amy and Doug, i was a very [unlikely] choice for this one, and i continually get that very underdog opportunity.
I related it more to my upbringing, I grew up in a very Christian environment -- a very healthy environment and a loving a family -- but there were parameters that I didn't understand, that I questioned it, and it took me until my adult years until I could really try new things... That was satanism, it works really well, I made a pact and the movie came out, so... No, you're really dealing with certain things as you grow up and you've got to try things on for yourself and really figure out what works for you and what doesn't. I just relate to that time, it's a very personal time, it's a comfort system and you cut the tether and find yourself very on your own with nothing to hold on to.
Some questions about whether the movie's message -- thinking differently and perhaps smaller -- could be translated to both film and business. They said yes.
Here is, as best as we can transcribe, Pitt and Miller's opening remarks.
First, I would say that it's complicated material. It's not your conventional story or story line, with conventional character arcs. So it took a lot of shots at it and a lot of people getting their fingerprints on it and figuring it out what it would be. Ultimately I couldn't get rid of this story... [these guys are] in an unfair situation, by necessity they had to think differently, they have to reinvent themselves, and in doing so they ran up against great bias and a vitriolic wall, that tested who they are. At the end of the day it's a story about our values, how we value people, how we value success, how we value failure, how we understand our own value. That the value system is warped with bias and prejudice... these types of questions. There are so many themes, I could go on about 70s films I thought it could relate to, but ultimately it's about values.
I think thats true [that the film is really about baseball, not a love story], I also think the opposite is true at the same time. It is very much a film about baseball, but I saw it as a film about a guy who is trying to win baseball games, but at the same time, a deeper thing is happening. There's a line from Michael Lewis' book, where he says, paraphrasing, 'He couldnt help but wonder if there was another life that he was supposed to be living.' This was a guy who was not living a life the way it was supposed to be. He was told that he had a destiny, he was going to be great, he was going to be a superstar, and it took him more than a decade to toiling in failure to accept that this was not going to happen... Once you begin to pull on that string and really challenge everything you know about your past, about decisions you made, it ends up being a story much bigger than a sports story, much bigger than a baseball story. But baseball is very visual, very beautiful games, it has a language in itself that means literally what it means, you're out, you scored a run or whatever, but could also be used as a language to communicate something that I don't think words or simple drama itself could adequately do. So it is a sport smovie very much and we took great pains to be truthful, but to me, its what's beneath that that was interesting to us.
Bennett Miller - Director
Photographers don't want to stop snapping pics of Brad, and are being yelled at by the moderator. Flash for cash.
Showtime, movie fans
Overhearing that Brad Pitt arrived 10 minutes ago. Which is why this thing is delayed. Hollywood!
A little bit about the movie -- if you're a baseball fan, you'll love the insider perspective on how trades and scouting goes down, not to mention what happens when a prospect doesn't fulfill his potential. If you aren't a fan, it has a great personal story, and you won't mind some of the purposeful oversights that serve the drama.
Absolutely packed house here at the Bell Lightbox, the hub of the Toronto International Film Festival. Journalists are angry that they've blocked off the stairs and elevators are swarmed, but then, it seems like half the world's movie media is chomping at the bit to see... Brad Pitt.
Presser should start in a few. All the big stars, as well as the director, Bennett Miller (whom we'll interview 1:1 tomorrow) will be in attendance.