Here’s a question that I’ve heard asked numerous times by both sports talk show hosts and the average Joe sports fan and movie goer. And it’s one that I, too, have found myself asking: How in the world did someone turn the book Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball into a Hollywood film?
I hadn’t really heard an answer until now, and it came from the exact right person in this situation, Jonah Hill. You might not know the name, but you’d recognize his face — you know, the heavy set funny guy from Superbad and other comedies. Well, Hill is making the transition into his first drama, which could just create more questions about the movie. But to his credit, Hill makes a compelling argument as to why we should all be excited to see this movie.
Jonah Hill joined WSCR in Chicago with The Boers and Bernstein Show to discuss his overall impressions on the movie Moneyball now that it’s set to hit theatres, whether he played baseball growing, if he had to learn the intricate sabremetrics for his part, and if so, how he went about doing so, why the film sounds boring but will be successful, and why Paul DePodesta — Hill’s character — didn’t want his name associated with the film.
What are your overall thoughts on the film?:
“Oh man, I’m pretty darn proud of this thing.”
Did you play baseball growing up?:
“I grew up playing Little League like every American kid and going to ballgames with my dad and stuff. To tell you the truth, I became more of a diehard basketball fan growing up and then when I got this part in Moneyball I really reconnected with baseball in a major way. And, also, had to learn a lot about behind the curtain of baseball, how the machine works.”
For your part, did you have to learn about Value Over Replacement Player and all the intricate stats that go along with the system?:
“Let me tell you, the hardest job on the set of Moneyball was being my statistics tutor because I can barely count to 10. … [The director] wanted me to be able to improvise statistics, which is a very difficult task to be asked. And this is my first big drama. … I took it really seriously and tried to learn as much of the stats as I could and hang out with some of these people who were using sabremetrics at the time.”
How in the world do you get this stuff to translate to the big screen successfully?:
“I think baseball fans and sports fans are having the hardest time understanding it without seeing the movie. It’s actually kind of exciting to me. On paper, The Social Network sounds like the most boring movie ever. It sounds like it’s about a bunch of nerds who created a software program. No one wants to go see that movie. Then you see the movie and it’s amazing because it’s about something else. … A movie about on-base percentage sounds like the most boring movie ever. People wonder how you make a riveting story out of that. The truth is, it’s a really great sports movie. But, really, what the filmmakers did is they just used baseball as a really beautiful, aesthetic backdrop to a story about underdogs and being undervalued.”
How come you play Paul DePodesta but that’s not what it says in the credits, it calls him Peter Brand?:
“This is something I’ve been really anxious to talk to with sports people because the sports media tended to blow it up into some big beef like Paul was really upset that I was playing with him. DePo and I are friends; he’s great. DePo didn’t like the way he was portrayed in the book. He felt that the book made him look like a nerd and he didn’t feel like he was a nerd. It’s got to be tough having yourself being portrayed in a book or a film. … He was incredibly helpful and we’re totally cool. … Playing a strict impression of Paul or DePo or whatever wouldn’t have best served the story.”