THE MONEYBALL THAT (FINALLY) GOT ROLLING: BRAD PITT ON HIS LATEST MOVIE: A LABOUR OF LOVE AND COMMITMENT – by Bob Thompson
A bearded Brad Pitt seems at peace, hours away from catching a red-eye flight back to London with his wife, Angelina Jolie.
For the last 48 hours, he has been focused on promoting Moneyball, which had a showcase at the Toronto International Film Festival and opens in theatres Sept. 23.
However, Pitt says mom and dad miss their six children hunkered down at their new base of operations in the British capital, and they can’t wait to reunite with them.
Despite the longing to be with the kids, the 47-year-old is courteous and enthusiastic during a Ritz-Carlton Hotel sit-down with Postmedia News to discuss his new baseball film.
Based on Michael Lewis’s non-fiction book, Moneyball follows the exploits of Pitt’s Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics’ general manager, who decided to try a unique formula to populate his cash-strapped American League team in the early-2000s.
The Bennett Miller-directed movie chronicles Beane’s attempts to assess “under-valued talent” by rejecting some of baseball’s old-school assessments, while incorporating “a new sabermetrics” way of measuring abilities.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the grumpy manager of the team at odds with the new approach. Jonah Hill stands out as the assistant-general manager, trying to help Beane reach his goals. And Aaron Sorkin (Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Social Network) offers up some witty dialogue.
It seems like a winning formula, but Moneyball nearly went down swinging. Original director David Frankel, who successfully transferred the book Marley & Me to the big screen, dropped out. His replacement, Steven Soderbergh, had his re-worked production shut down, days before filming was to start in the summer of 2009.
If Pitt had not persevered, the film wouldn’t have been made at all, which the actor begrudgingly acknowledges during the chat.
Q: Why so obsessed with Moneyball?
A: I found it an amazing time-and-place kind of event that these guys were able to merge, and they went up against the church of conventional wisdom by necessity.
Q: Does the movie also champion a new way of thinking?
A: Absolutely. You understand that, sometimes when we’ve been doing it one way for so long, we forget to question why. Why are there norms? And what was the original context?
Q: Is it a source of pride that you are loyal to less commercial projects?
A: Yeah. If we can get something to the screen that might not have been there otherwise, I am happy. I mean, (Terrence Malick’s) The Tree of Life may not have made it to the screen.
Q: The quips between you and Jonah Hill seem to work. How did that evolve?
A: We needed that layer of levity to carry the thing, but I mean, Jonah and I operate the same way.
Q: How so?
A: Jonah is very open. He’s such a lovely guy. He’s got no guard, not cagey in any way.
Q: Can we also thank Aaron Sorkin for the funny lines?
A: I mean, Sorkin is the guy I give credit to. I mean, he brought a great banter, wit and levity to the thing.
Q: Did you play baseball growing up?
A: (Points to his left cheekbone) Eighteen stitches. Pop fly. Bounced off my cheekbone and I still threw the guy out at second. But baseball and I didn’t get along so well.
Q: Do fans forget that you were once an “under-valued” actor who struggled before breaking out with a cameo in 1991’s Thelma & Louise?
A: I moved from Missouri to L.A. with a couple of hundred bucks in my pocket, not knowing anyone. I signed up with an extras agency, and I was doing extra work for a couple of years.
Q: Any famous films?
A: Well, (1987’s) Less Than Zero was the biggest one. But it was more like doing trade commercials and informational in-house spots. I would do anything. I wanted to be around it.
Q: So, you learned by doing?
A: I was more intent on figuring things out, because I’ve learned on-camera. And I was really bad in the beginning – but weren’t we all?
Q: Back to Moneyball. How did you know Capote director Miller could do a sports movie?
A: We were speaking the same language. The tone is the most important thing in a film. And the tone he gave this film made it.
Q: In fact, there is Oscar buzz for both your baseball film and George Clooney’s The Ides of March. Are you competitive?
A: Listen, man, it’s a fickle, cyclical thing, that kind of favouritism. When your number comes up, it is really fun. When a friend’s number comes up, it’s even more fun, because you don’t have to spend your weekend putting on a tux.
Q: Are you still having fun taking chances?
A: It’s more fun in a way; there’s less pressure. I understand more that some films are going to work and some aren’t, and that’s all secondary.
Q: Your family puts things in perspective, you mean?
A: Absolutely, in a great, great, great way.
Q: Does that allow you to focus on what counts?
A: Yes. Movies are not the life-and-death thing. Family is life and death.