Hey, CelebSecrets4U readers!
Last week we had the chance to attend the press junket for Disney’s Million Dollar Arm, which tells the inspiring true story of how sports agent JB Bernstein discovered the first two Indian major league baseball players. We spoke with Suraj Sharma (Rinku) and Madhur Mittal (Dinesh) about the need for this story to be told by Hollywood, what it’s like to play someone who really exists, and how they, like their characters, learned to play a totally new sport.
Million Dollar Arm hits theaters on May 16th and is rated PG for mild language and some suggestive content.
Check out the interview below…
CS4U: Can you tell us a little about your film, Million Dollar Arm?
Madhur: “Well, it’s an amazing true story, first of all, about Rinku and Dinesh and JB. It’s a human story; it’s a story about people and lives coming together and changing each other, and kind of uplifting and changing each other for the better. I think we keep saying that when we first both read the script the first time, it hit us that we didn’t know about this amazing story, being Indians. None of my friends knew, nobody in my family knew, and I was really kind of upset in a way because this is something that has never been done by anyone else in any sport in the history of mankind—that is big.”
Suraj: And nobody knows about it!
CS4U: I was actually going to ask you if you knew about it!
Madhur: “We did not! We absolutely had no idea about this whole story, and I think the great thing with our film is that finally this story is going to come out and reach people, and I think that’s very important because there are so many things back home in India that need to change. When you say a sport, it’s just cricket, and I think with this film, it will hopefully kind of change that whole trend. These guys deserve a lot of love and applause, you know, and I think they need to get a lot more than they have already. And also, as an Indian, I would love to have more sporting heroes in other sports other than cricket, because we are starved of that. We’re really starving for sporting heroes, and Dinesh and Rinku are the ones who will make that difference, hopefully.
CS4U: What attracted each of you to your individual characters?
Suraj: “Firstly, the fact that it’s a true human being that exists. That in itself is super interesting, you know, delving into someone’s mind, trying to understand this weird situation where they were completely lost, alone, trying to figure out so much at the same time—learning a language, learning a sport—everything at the same time—it’s intense. So that’s one of the reasons. There’s conflict, there’s obviously a character arc that they all go through, and that’s important, I look for that. And one of the more important reasons is because Rinku is nothing like me, and it gives you an opportunity to invest yourself into someone else and try to bring out something real.
Madhur: “Yeah, and for me also, the first reason that he gave, I’ve never done that before, to play a character based on a true life person. That was number one, and also because what people in American and India have seen of me before this is Slumdog, and that was completely different character than the one I play in this film, so Dinesh gave me a chance to play someone who’s completely on the other end of the spectrum from what I did in Slumdog, because I’ve been doing television in Europe, but that doesn’t really come out here or India, so it was great to get a chance to do something completely different, and also because the first person I knew was cast for the film was Suraj and the last audition I gave was with him, so it was great to get a chance to work with him too.
CS4U: You guys form a brotherly bond in the film, did you form one on real life?
Suraj: “Definitely, it happened at the first audition. That dynamic that was created without anything happening, and suddenly when we were acting, everything was working.
Madhur: That’s what got me the part. This was the third time I was reading for the character, Suraj had already been reading with four or five guys that day, and I came in and we met and had a chat, and then we started shooting the first take, and we hadn’t discussed a lot of the things that we ended up doing in those takes like high-fiving and just connecting and giving each other perfect cues and improvising. It was just amazing to have that chemistry with someone right from the word “go.” I had never had that experience before, and to have that at the final audition, it just took of from there for the film. I had an absolute blast shooting with him.”
CS4U: Are either of you athletic at all? I know you didn’t have baseball experience.
Madhur: “No baseball experience, he plays soccer, I surf, I played cricket for awhile and a bunch of different sports too. Yeah, athletic ability, but not the skill set required for pitching.
Suraj: We had three and a half weeks where we trained really hard, broke down the movements, tried to understand the mechanics of fluid arm movements.
Madhur: You’re like four hours everyday for three and a half weeks and then you’re also two hours everyday at the gym to put on muscle. We were quite scrawny boys back then, still are.”
CelebSecrets4U: Why do you think our readers should go see Million Dollar Arm?
Madhur: “I think they should go see it because it is an absolutely amazing story, which is true, first of all. And this is a family film, which I think has come after a very long time, that honestly has something for everybody. A lot of films are just children’s films that get pushed as family films just because you can take your children to the film, but this actually has something for everybody. You know, you have the love story between Lake and John, you have the whole sports angle, obviously. It’s a human story at the basis, and Lake is amazing, and obviously John and Phil and Alan, and obviously you have the fish out of the water story, so there’s a lot to look forward to.”