Sept. 23, 2011
BOSTON — As he and his sad sack team limped into the 2002 baseball season, Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane was desperate for a new winning strategy. In Moneyball, a film adaptation of Michael Lewis's 2003 book of the same name, Beane (played by Brad Pitt) realizes baseball has become a game of Moneyball.
Given that the A's have little money compared to the major market teams, his new Assistant GM Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill) devises a system of Sabermetrics — assembling a team by statistics, not salaries. "I see it as a movie about challenging the system and being undervalued and being an underdog and thinking differently," Hill explained during a recent stop in Boston. "That's the element I related to the most."
Hill's character, a Yale-educated economist, is actually an amalgamation of several number-crunching baseball brainiacs not unlike Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, whom Hill met in prepping for the film. "[The GMs Hill met with] felt the system was archaic and things hadn't changed in 150 years and maybe it was time to try something different," Hill said.
It worked for the A's who wound up pulling off a 20-game winning streak that season, an American League record. "I just looked at it as Billy was the bazooka and Peter was the ammunition," Hill said. "Billy acts on raw emotion and Peter's the most logical person in the entire world so together we form one perfect person to start something new, like Frankenstein."
The 27-year-old Hill has established himself over the last seven years in a string of comedies. Moneyball is his first drama. "I happen to have done a lot of comedic movies, but I love dramas and doing this…having this be the first kind of big drama that people will see me in with Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman is a dream-like surreal experience," said Hill.
The newly slimmed down actor stars in the film alongside a legion of legends from well-known character actors to Pitt — the icon whose stardom looms large. "After the first couple of rehearsals I was like, I need to get over that because I need to focus on just killing it in this part because these guys trusted me, they gave me an opportunity to do something different and I'm not going to let them down," Hill explained. And he doesn't — helping to transform what could have been a cumbersome story about numbers and sports clichés into one of the most engaging films of the year.
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