In Million Dollar Arm, Bill Paxton plays Tom House -- a man who has the most unique of views on how to teach the game of baseball. And Alan Arkin is Ray, the scout who goes with Jon Hamm to India in search of the next great Major League Baseball pitcher. We caught up with the duo for an exclusive interview and if these two don’t do a comedy soon, it is a crime.
Paxton and Arkin share a scene together in Million Dollar Arm, but don’t actually talk. But it is clear that these two have chemistry in droves. They first worked together in 1994’s Indian Summer and each talked about the joy of just being in the same movie together with Million Dollar Arm.
Movie Fanatic: You guys didn’t converse per se in Million Dollar Arm…
Bill Paxton: They didn’t let us communicate!
Alan Arkin: There were some great scenes that we wanted to do with each other. We had a knife fight in the woods that would have been great.
Bill Paxton: That would have been mayhem.
Movie Fanatic: With a bear, right?
Alan Arkin: Yes, the bear.
Bill Paxton: That would have been epic.
Movie Fanatic: What do you guys think it is about the baseball movie -- and they’re usually about so much more -- that audiences devour them when they’re touching and good, like this one.
Bill Paxton: All sports movie are not about the sport. It’s the setting of the conflict, but it is usually not the conflict.
Alan Arkin: A great baseball movie that I forgot about, Fear Strikes Out. That’s an important film. Talk about great baseball movies.
Movie Fanatic: What are some of your favorite baseball movies (check out our 11 best baseball movies!)?
Bill Paxton: Pride of the Yankees and Cooperstown.
Alan Arkin: Cooperstown!
Movie Fanatic: Your movie, Alan!
Bill Paxton: I like Field of Dreams, of course. I’m a sucker for that. "Dad, would you like to play catch? Dad?" Cue the tears.
Movie Fanatic: You went to India, Mr. Arkin. What was that like?
Alan Arkin: It was intense. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Never been there, they sent us there in the middle of the hottest month of the year to the three hottest cities in India -- during a heat wave!
[Bill Paxton laughs]
Alan Arkin: We had people collapsing on their heads, one after another -- working outdoors 12 hours a day in 125 degree heat.
Bill Paxton: I missed out on that. I was dying to go.
Alan Arkin: You would have been dying there! Everybody got deathly ill.
Bill Paxton: But, on a good note though…
Alan Arkin: There was an Indian cinematographer though, and he captured things that I have never seen in America cinema before. It’s beautifully shot -- just exquisite.
Movie Fanatic: Another person who just brought it in this movie is your director, Craig Gillespie. What most impressed you about watching him work?
Alan Arkin: What most impressed me was after the fact. It doesn’t matter how impressed you are with someone while you’re working, as long as it comes out well on film. And he did that. What impressed me was the sensitivity with which he dealt with the Indian culture. He showed it with a true sense of its worth. And the treatment of the kids was particularly sensitive.
Bill Paxton: He has such a subtle sensitivity. I found he was kind of like Tom House, very calming, to the point where I felt I was doing nothing. And he was like, “Exactly.”
Movie Fanatic: Bill, your character, Tom, has a unique take on baseball.
Bill Paxton: Very unique take and the man himself does too on life. I wish I could have spent more time with him, but I was just trying to capture an essence of him, a spirit. In that short time I was around Tom House, I gained a tremendous admiration and respect and humor. He’s not just a pitching coach. He’s a life coach too. Athletes and people from all walks of life seek his counsel because he’s a wise, wise cat.
Movie Fanatic: Mr. Arkin, at this point in your career with all your accolades and success, what does a story have to say to you for you to commit?
Alan Arkin: I must be moved or broke.
Movie Fanatic: In that order?
Alan Arkin: Hopefully in that order! I didn’t expect to be so moved by this film as I was when I read the script. I was happy that I was even more moved when I saw the finished product, which I can only attribute to the director, Craig Gillespie.
Movie Fanatic: Although you didn’t get to talk to one another directly in the movie...
Alan Arkin: We did another movie together 20 years ago, so we didn’t feel we had to say too much to each other.
Bill Paxton: It was great to connect after a time. It was like picking up where we left off. I don’t want to talk about him in front of him, but I will. I love this guy. He lived up to my image of him when we worked together a few years ago. He embodies the characters he plays so well.
Alan Arkin: And what I would like to say about Bill is I find him one of the three greatest people working in the business today.
Movie Fanatic: Dare I ask who the other two are?
Alan Arkin: Me, and I forget the third.
We all laugh.
Bill Paxton: He never takes the needle out! He just keeps sticking that needle in. I can’t take it. Uncle!
Movie Fanatic: Have to ask about Jon. He is the heart and soul of this film. I know people know him for Mad Men, but I love how this shows so many other sides to him.
Bill Paxton: Isn’t that the truth? And he’s not afraid to be the bad guy, to be the shallow, two-bit hustler who starts this hero’s journey just trying to make a buck.
Alan Arkin: It’s amazing. After Mad Men, you would think he wouldn’t know how to do that.
Bill Paxton: [Laughs] I didn’t know him, but met him in passing. I enjoyed getting to know him. I learned he’s from St. Louis, good Midwestern stock. This is a great role. A lot of actors out there who are leading men and they’re afraid from an image point of view to be seen in an unflattering view. But, that’s what gives the movie its gravitas. You take this guy, who really is a two-bit hustler, he’s going over there to make a quick buck. He doesn’t give a crap about these guys. He’s bringing them over here to exploit them, plain and simple. But, in the course of the journey, he learns everything. All the characters in this story -- like Lake Bell, Alan's, mine and those kids -- have had an effect on this guy, and he’s become a real guy.
Movie Fanatic: I love the redemption.
Bill Paxton: That’s it. It’s a redemption story.