I recently got the chance to talk to Dave Bean about his role in ‘Moneyball’. Here, Dave talks about his own baseball history and about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Hey Dave. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘Moneyball‘.
You’re very welcome. It’s a pleasure to speak with you, Matt.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s based on a true story?
Yes, ‘Moneyball’ is based a true story and has a few different layers to it. Firstly, you have Billy Beane, a General Manager of a Major League baseball team, as played by Brad Pitt. It’s about how a failed athlete, with so much expectation placed upon him, reconciles that failure and attempts to find his place in the only world he’s ever really known – baseball. Secondly, it’s about how this same man uncovers a new and vastly different way of doing things – in a world where the old way is not just the only way, but it’s sacred and revered. For those familiar with the American game of baseball, you know I’m not just being hyperbolic. Billy Beane hires Peter Brand (actually in real life it was Paul DePodesta, who would not allow his name to be used in the film), as portrayed by Jonah Hill, an ivy-league grad and a non-baseball man, to evaluate players utilizing computerized statistical analysis. This method is utter blasphemy to the professional baseball world, totally upending baseball’s hit-or-miss system of utilizing former baseball players as “scouts” to eyeball and guess which young players may end up as future stars. A third layer of ‘Moneyball’ shows us how Billy Beane’s career path has profoundly affected his personal life, and despite a failed marriage, tries to make a solid attempt to be a positive presence in his budding teenage daughter’s life.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays Art Howe, the field manager of the Oakland A’s, the team that Billy Beane runs. A field manager has 5 or 6 coaches on his staff. I play one of his coaches – a dream come true for me as a lifelong baseball fan – and a huge fan of Mr. Hoffman.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Again, as a baseball fan, I had read the book a decade earlier. It was groundbreaking information and the Billy Beane’s story gripped me completely. When I found out it was to be made into a film, I immediately wanted in, even if it meant playing a popcorn vendor. When the character “breakdowns” were sent out to agents, there was a bit of good news: to lend to authenticity, they wanted the actors portraying the coaching staff to have either professional or collegiate baseball coaching experience. Guess what – between acting assignments I had spent parts of the past 3 years coaching baseball at a local Los Angeles college. We immediately started lobbying for a role. After four months, I received a phone call asking if I was still available to work on ‘Moneyball’. I started the next day.
How would you say this film is different and unique to other sports films?
That’s a great question because I think I’ve seen most of the great sports movies. I think the real difference is that it doesn’t overly focus on the action on the field. It’s really not about winning or losing a particular game. It’s about relationships, trust, personal growth and courage – things that are universally explored in any film genre. That’s probably why ‘Moneyball’ has worked so well with audiences who normally wouldn’t pay to see a sports film. It’s more akin to the personal odyssey exemplified in ‘Bang The Drum Slowly’ which stars Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarty than, say, an on the field gem like ‘Bull Durham’.
The film stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt and Stephen Bishop – with Bennett Miller onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes to tell?
No doubt, this was an amazing filmmaking experience for all involved. I can honestly say unequivocally that each of the leading actors was what you would want and expect out of professionals of that caliber. I shot most of my scenes with Brad Pitt, who was completely approachable and generous on-set. Unfortunately for me, my best work – including a one-on-one conversation between Brad and me – was left on the cutting room floor (every experienced actor has to live with this indignity from time-to-time, but you get over it and move on…). Phil Hoffman was in character from the word go – you can see why he’s always so amazing. The nice surprise was seeing Jonah Hill talk about comedy (even though this was his first mostly straight dramatic turn) to eager young actors on the set. He would answer every question, even have lunch with the extras – he was totally gracious and seemed quite appreciative for the success he’s had at such a young age. I was equally impressed with director Bennett Miller, who offered face-to-face direction to me even in the smallest of scenes. I found him to be very artistic, creative and a great observer and listener. And completely in-charge in the best sense – a creative leader if you will.
Let’s talk a bit about you Dave. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
You’ve likely heard this before – I never really felt like I had a choice. I’ve just been acting in one form or another since I can remember. And I always seem to have a stock repertoire of characters inside of me that can’t wait to be unleashed and explored whether on film, TV or the stage (which I never seem to do enough of…). Like many actors, I relish climbing into the skin of someone else and giving life to a character.
You’ve been in a number of different TV series and films – which actors/actresses have been your favourite to work with so far and which project has been your favourite to be a part of?
Not only because it’s a recent success, but ‘Moneyball’ was a positive experience I’ll never forget. Showing up at either at Dodger Stadium or Sony Studios, putting on a baseball uniform, working with that cast and crew (remember – this was the same production team that made ‘The Social Network’) – even getting the chance to eat the great food!
Aside from that, as a work-a-day actor, rather than a star, I’m fortunate to spend most of my days on commercial sets and voiceover studios working with some of the best talent the industry has to offer. Very few are known commodities, but most make my acting life a real pleasure – and downright fun.
Of the name players I’ve worked with either on-camera, in the voice studio or in other capacities, I’d say Jason Bateman, Pierce Brosnan and Ryan Gosling are among my favourites. I’m especially happy that Jason has broken out as a major comedic star and that Ryan is now crossing over to more mainstream films.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
That’s difficult to answer, Matt. There are so many fascinating people from so many walks of life – it would be hard to pare it down. But – I’ll give it the old college try. My first dinner guest would have to be Woody Allen, who has been so prolific over the years as a director, writer and actor. To me, his artistry as a filmmaker is always inspirational, whether creating drama or comedy. Even his books are amazing. My second guest would probably be Thomas Jefferson, the third American president. While he mostly known for being one of our “Founding Fathers”, he was even more adept as a philosopher, inventor, farmer and architect – a true renaissance man for the ages. My third dinner invitee would likely be Ted Williams, arguably the best baseball hitter the game has ever seen and a genuine war hero, having served in combat as a pilot in both WW2 and the Korean War. What John Wayne pretended to be on-screen, Ted Williams was – in real life.
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
Again, hard to pare it down to just three things. But, for the sake of discussion I’d say first, coffee – have to have a few cups a day – love everything about it from aroma, taste and, of course, that kick. Second, I’d need a radio. I listen to radio morning, noon and night. I love National Public Radio, BBC and even daytime talk radio. This is my primary source of information (although I am a major newspaper reader, but if I have to choose…). The third thing I could not do without would be books – can I cheat little have more than one. I spend most of my off time either in the book store or library – my need to read is never-ending.
How are you going to be spending your Christmas this year?
We just moved my mother to Southern California from Boston. My brother and his wife are in San Diego so my wife and I will happily have much of the family around this year.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Right now, I’m working on a film called ‘Starlet’, where I play a cop. It stars Dree Hemingway, daughter of Mariel and granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway. They’re hoping this will be Dree’s breakout role – she’s terrific in it. I’ve also been working on a few different made-for-web series, some involving vampires and werewolves – popular subject matter right now. And, of course, I’ll keep plugging away at my voice and commercial work – my bread & butter.
Thanks for the interview!