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Brad’s Pitch

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Pitt and Hill in Moneyball.  

But 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 projectand a directorthat 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 thinghe’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.

Hill had tested his ability to play a less overtly comic role in the indie Cyrus, and he loved this partbecause, like everybody else involved, it reminded him of Hollywood. It wasn’t the baseball or the numbers I connected to, he says. It was the obsessiveness. Bennett said that the way we talk about actors and roles and movies with each other is the way my character should be able to talk to Brad’s about baseball. It’s what we do all the time about movieswe analytically shit-talk everybody’s strengths and weaknesses! Everybody I know does that. So that was my in.

For the movie, as for Beane, the triumph may be that an innovative idea got a fair chance to play out at all. I think a documentary about the making of Moneyball would in some ways have been the perfect complement to the movie itself, says Miller wryly. It’s not a good-versus-evil story. And when you get into the shoes of everybody who exercised some kind of will over the creative process, it’s hard not to sympathize. But yes, I did have some moments of living scenes that felt like they were right from the movie.

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.

Moneyball
Directed by Bennett Miller.
Columbia Pictures.
Sept. 23.


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