Moneyball: Interview with Brad Pitt

“It was Bennett Miller who cracked it,” says Brad Pitt, who stars in “Moneyball,” which he also produced.  “The book really isn’t a conventional story, and because of that – to do it justice – Bennett did not want to make a conventional movie.  We were all very passionate about the project, but it is Bennett’s desire to make a certain kind of movie that ultimately formed the movie that is on the screen.”

“Brad had personal reasons for wanting to make this story,” says director Bennett Miller.  “Over the course of making the film, Brad revealed himself to be more than just a great actor— he is a great collaborator and producer. We saw the movie as a classic search-for-wisdom story – I think there’s something thrilling about people relinquishing long-held, conventional, conformist, universal beliefs.  It gets really exciting when there are personal consequences to it.  On the surface, he’s trying to win baseball games, but beneath it all, there’s something he’s trying to work out.  That is a timeless story.” 

“In many ways, Billy’s going up against an institution – one that many smart individuals have dedicated their lives to,” says Pitt.  “The minute you start questioning any of those norms, you can be labeled a heretic or dismissed as foolish.  These guys had to step back and ask, ‘If we were going to start this game today, is this how we’d do it?’  A system that has worked for 150 years doesn’t work for us – I think that’s applicable to the moments of flux we’re experiencing today.”

“The film is about how we value things,” Pitt continues.  “How we value each other; how we value ourselves; and how we decide who’s a winner based on those values.  The film questions the very idea of how to define success. It places great value on this quiet, personal victory, the victory that’s not splashed across the headlines or necessarily results in trophies, but that, for Beane, became a kind of personal Everest.  At the end of the day, we all hope that what we’re doing will be of some value, that it will mean something and I think that is this character’s quest.” 

Miller adds, “I wasn’t interested in the tropes of sports movies.   I’d rather not end a film with a hero carried off on the shoulders of teammates in a stadium where fans are screaming their heads off, champagne corks flying, trophies, fireworks, and all of that.  I prefer the quiet triumphs, that might not burn as bright but deeper and more lasting, where you see someone struggle internally and then come out the other side to realize something has changed within them.”

“Bennett has the gravitas and the command as a filmmaker to get to the richer themes and more profound aspects of this story,” says producer Michael De Luca. “Sports movies can be great metaphors for life, and Bennett brings a strong view of contemporary life to the process.”

Though he is a baseball fan, and sparked to the idea of a different cinematic take on the sports world, Miller was also drawn to the deeper fabric of Billy Beane’s story.  “I like that you have a character who takes a risk not just to make something of himself, but more so to understand something about himself,” Miller explains.  “On the one hand this is a true sports drama, but Billy is trying to do something more meaningful than simply win baseball games – whether he understands that or not.” 

Miller says those consequences come up in the questions Beane faces – which, ultimately, are questions we all must face: “How do you compare the value of one thing to another, of one person against another, of the choices in your life?” 

One early reader of Lewis’s book was New York-based producer Rachael Horovitz, who connected with the universal appeal of Billy Beane’s trajectory and saw the bones of a great movie. “He is a great character, a complex outsider, flailing on the inside, yet aching to remake the system,” Horovitz says.  “He picked himself up and had the courage to start again.” 

Horovitz would team with Michael DeLuca and Brad Pitt to complete the production team.  Says De Luca:  “What got me about the story is how courageous it is to be that lone, original voice at the right time and right place to turn the ship of conventional thinking around.”

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