Moneyball tells the true tale of the Oakland A’s and their General Manager, who bucked the system and made baseball history. Actor Stephen Bishop plays David Justice in the film and spoke to Movie Fanatic exclusively about the experience of not only working opposite Brad Pitt (Check out our Brad Pitt interview) and Philip Seymour Hoffman, but also portraying one of his good friends and a mentor from his baseball days in David Justice.
Bishop met Justice when he was with the Atlanta Braves organization. In many ways, playing a baseball player was not difficult, but like any good baseball player knows, the challenge is fulfilling your role within the team, like an actor in a film, which is the key to success.
The ballplayer got into acting after leaving baseball and has already compiled an impressive resume. Besides Moneyball (Don't miss our Moneyball review), Bishop has Safe House opposite Denzel Washington and the 2012 summer blockbuster Battleship already on his resume.
Movie Fanatic: What did you personally find most resonant about that story?
Stephen Bishop: The thing that stays with me the most about the film is the ending: Pitt’s relationship with his daughter and how that song plays such a big part in his mind. The fact that director Bennett (Miller) pushes in so close you can see the emotion in his eyes, you can read what he’s thinking. That song is so touching. As far as the story, it’s a great illustration of how somebody can change things without having to go with the norm. If they believe in something strong enough, they can just put their heads down and make it happen.
Movie Fanatic: Also, the film talked about how people can be undervalued. In the game of baseball, everybody can play a role. Your character is asked to be a leader, was that something that also appealed to you?
Stephen Bishop: I enjoyed that part of this world. He comes into this situation with a different type of clubhouse than what he’s used to and he’s asked to a place that even he has never been. Him taking on that role, after being a little bit reluctant to acquiesce to the changes around him, says a lot about David Justice and Billy Beane. From what I understand, they were very tight and David was his go-to guy. It’s great that it rings true in the film.
Movie Fanatic: You have that great scene with Brad Pitt as Billy where he is asking you to be the leader of the A’s. First of all, how was it working opposite Mr. Brad Pitt?
Stephen Bishop: Ah, man, it’s the pinnacle of my acting career at this point. Brad was such an awesome guy. He’s a regular guy, not a prima donna like that. He’s clearly such a megastar, but you would never know it. That scene was great for me -- it gave me an opportunity to do what I did naturally, which was hit, while I was working across one of the best actors of our time. The fact that I was hitting put me in that comfort zone, it felt so real and natural. It was easy to work. I wanted that scene to be the best it could possibly be. It was my favorite scene in the script. To pull it off with Brad is such an honor.
Movie Fanatic: That’s the second part of my question actually, I thought it would have been difficult to hit and act at the same time.
Stephen Bishop: That’s the thing -- that was really me hitting. All the balls you hear are really coming off my bat. It put me in a place that I had been before, talking to a manager or a GM while I was taking batting practice. I’ve spent lots of time in batting cages, talking to coaches -- that was a scene I’ve lived many, many times.
Movie Fanatic: Did you have a chance to talk to David Justice before filming to get into his head as to what he was thinking during that period with the A’s?
Stephen Bishop: David is a friend of mine and has been for quite some time. He was a mentor, a big brother to me when I was with the Braves in the minor leagues. I was able to call him before I started shooting and find out where he was in his career mentally.
Movie Fanatic: Since you did know him so well, was it a little weird or surreal at all, during the filming or even watching it on screen, witnessing yourself playing someone you know so well?
Stephen Bishop: [Laughs] It was weird doing it. Watching it was weird because David was sitting right next to me [laughs]. Shooting was weird because I wanted to make sure I was able to portray him in a light that he would enjoy being portrayed while not compromising the story that needed to be told. That was the biggest stressor in the entire process, actually.
Movie Fanatic: As David Justice was a mentor to you as a baseball player in your playing days, were you a mentor to the actors playing baseball players on the set?
Steven Bishop: I was. Chris Pratt (check out our exclusive Chris Pratt video Q&A) was the guy I bonded with the most. We started working out together about three weeks before filming because both of us needed to work on our left handed swings. He didn’t have any real baseball experience, so I taught him some things and gave him mannerisms to make it look like an authentic ball player. I was so proud of him.
Movie Fanatic: Next up you have Safe House with Denzel Washington?
Stephen Bishop: It’s coming in February. I got to go to Cape Town, South Africa to shoot it and do scenes with Denzel, which was another bucket list for me. It’s funny, people ask me: What actors do you really want to work with? Well [laughs], you should have asked me this a year ago. I had great answers for you. Right now, I’ve accomplished those things working with Brad Pitt and Denzel Washington.