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TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE

About The Production
GUS

I don't need your help. I don't know why you don't just go home.

MICKEY

Because I feel this dysfunctional sense of responsibility to make sure that you're okay.

"'Trouble with the Curve' is a story about how we deal with what life throws at us," describes director/producer Robert Lorenz. "It has characters in whom we can all see a bit of ourselves, reaching those moments in life when we are faced with re-evaluating priorities: the importance we put on our careers, our friendships and our family."

At the center of the story are a father and daughter whose lives have taken them in opposite directions. Even when they're together, they are worlds apart. But now, circumstances are forcing them to face their differences on common ground.

"In any family, even when things get tough, there are always ties that connect you," says the film's star and producer Clint Eastwood. "You just have to find a starting point to begin to close the gap."

While Lorenz is an award-winning producer, the film marks his directorial debut. The former assistant director, who segued into producing Eastwood's movies, says he always intended to direct. "It was just a matter of finding the right project at the right time," Lorenz states. "I felt the story had broad appeal, a lot of humor, with really great characters and interesting relationships, and I could easily visualize what I would do with it as I read it. The fact that it had a great role for Clint and he was interested in playing it was way more than I could have hoped for."

"Rob and I have worked together for almost 20 years now," Eastwood says. "We've talked about him directing over the years, so when he showed me this script, I thought it was a perfect opportunity. I had no doubt he'd do a terrific job, and he absolutely did."

Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, a man nearing the end of a long career who is too proud, or too stubborn, to reveal the secret that his eyes are no longer as sharp as his instincts. And while those closest to him aren't exactly sure what's wrong, they know that something is-something that, for his daughter, Mickey, is worth dropping everything for. Even if she's going to have to fight him every step of the way.

Lorenz adds, "In any other relationship, Mickey showing up to help, even if it's unexpected, would be a good thing. But Gus just can't see it that way."

Amy Adams, who plays the role of Mickey, says that there's universality to Mickey's feelings about her dad. "Daughters always want the approval of their fathers. So, naturally, Mickey wants Gus's attention; she wants him to be proud of her, but he, like many dads, has a hard time conveying that. Over time, she's built up a wall and things between them have become contentious, to say the least."

That wall has extended to her love life as well, and that, combined with her long work hours, have made it hard for Mickey to take romantic associations to the next level. However, her initial disinterest doesn't discourage Johnny Flanagan, who finds himself immediately attracted to her. Like both Gus and Mickey, the former baseball player is in a transitional phase of life.

Justin Timberlake portrays the ex-pitcher, and loved how interwoven the relationships were. "In a twist of fate, Gus had scouted Johnny when he was a high school phenom. Now, having blown out his arm pretty early in his career, he's trying his hand at scouting, which is how he comes in contact with Gus again…and where he meets Mickey."

Producer Michele Weisler, whom Lorenz has known for many years, had brought him Randy Brown's screenplay. "The story really resonated with me," Weisler recalls. "We all have relationships with our parents, of course, and this one had a lot of dramatic weight-a stoic, emotionally unavailable single father and a resentful daughter who never understood why he's kept her at arm's length. But it also had enough levity to feel very real. It may be Gus's story, but it's also easy to see things from Mickey's point of view."

Though the story evolved over time, for first-time feature film writer Brown, the main character was always "a crotchety old guy who was kind of being phased out by the young blood and the new technology. It's happening every day in our country, and not just in baseball. I wondered how that must make someone feel, being pushed out to make room for someone else climbing the ladder," he says.

"These characters all come together at a time of significant change for each of them," Lorenz says. "They are all on a journey and have to discover something about themselves in order to move beyond the place they are in their lives and onto the next thing, whatever that may be."

MICKEY

That doesn't sound like my father. He never tells me anything.

JOHNNY

Maybe he wants to…you know… just doesn't know how. You might have to take the lead.

Up until now, Gus Lobel has been able to hide the fact that his eyes are failing him, but there's too much riding on this latest scouting trip. The Atlanta Braves are not the only team with their sights set on the hottest bat in high school, Bo Gentry, who is all but guaranteed to go first in the upcoming draft. Gus is old school: watch the games, get to know a player's personality on and off the field, and make that crucial decision as to whether or not this is somebody who can carry that raw talent through to a career in baseball. The modern method, however, relies heavily on the numbers-run them through a computer that will spit out predictions of who is most likely to succeed. Gus Lobel is definitely not a modern man.

"Gus is an old guy who believes in the tried-and-true way of doing things," Lorenz says. "He works from his gut, trusts his instincts, and doesn't see any point in changing."

But change is definitely on the horizon, like it or not.

"Vision is essential for somebody who's going around to various farm clubs and high schools, or scouring the papers, trying to find the next big star," Eastwood notes. "Without admitting it to anyone, Gus is having to rely more on his hearing-the crack of the bat, the ball hitting the glove-to do his job."

For Lorenz, no one could do the job of playing Gus but Eastwood. "From the moment I read the script, Clint was Gus. Despite how long I've known him, he disappeared into this role, as he always does."

In prepping for the role, Eastwood met with real-life scouts to get a handle on the ins and outs of the job, including the New York Mets' Jim Bryant, Jim Rough of the Detroit Tigers, Jack Powell from the Minnesota Twins, and the Braves' own Brian Bridges and Eric Ruben. Ruben also served as one of the film's assistant baseball coaches.

"These guys have a tremendous responsibility," Eastwood continues, "because they're often signing players who are 17, 18 years old, to major league contracts with a lot of money dropped in their lap. They have to really vet them and the families, find out what the parents are like, talk to neighbors, and make sure that they'll not only play ball, but also be able to handle the lifestyle. Scouts have to be part psychologist as well as have an eye for the game, so they can be sure they're not betting on the wrong horse."

Unfortunately, Gus seems to have a better talent for reading players than understanding the needs of his own daughter, whose mother, Gus's wife, died when Mickey was just six.

"Gus has had a very long, successful career by doing what works for him, and shutting out the rest, so that's what he sticks to," Lorenz conveys. "But in terms of dealing with Mickey, he hasn't been so successful. He just might have to learn to change if he doesn't want to lose her."

Unlike Gus, Mickey's career is on the rise: she's an associate competing for a coveted slot as a partner at her law firm. "Mickey and Gus have a lot in common," Adams states. "They're two people who focus on their work to keep from having to focus on anything else. She learned from the best; she keeps really busy so that she doesn't have to explore the deeper, emotional side of herself."

Despite her reluctance, Mickey takes it upon herself to look out for Gus, joining him on his latest scouting trip, hoping to be his eyes on the field. However, Eastwood notes, "He doesn't want anybody to help him, because he equates that with them feeling sorry for him, which he can't stand. He especially doesn't want Mickey there because he doesn't think it's a healthy atmosphere for a young woman, even though she was around it a lot when she was growing up and knows the game very well. He's also afraid she'll catch on to what's really wrong with him."

Adams observes, "I think Mickey views going to North Carolina to help her dad as potentially her last chance to connect with him, and to convince him to start taking care of himself. But it's hard for her because she doesn't know how to communicate with him. They don't talk, they argue. And she's no more comfortable taking care of him than he is being taken care of. This time together could be a game changer, one way or another."

Lorenz says, "Mickey's got so much going on in her life at the start of this story-she's on the verge of achieving her career goals, her relationship with her boyfriend is at a crossroads, and then she learns her father's livelihood is in jeopardy. It's a perfect storm of life events that forces her to re-examine what matters to her."

The director adds that he was eager to work with Adams, noting, "Amy embodies the characters she plays so well. I also had a sense she'd be a good match for Clint, that she could stand up to him on screen, which she had to do…a lot."

Adams was drawn to the script, and even more to the opportunity to work alongside Eastwood. "Working with Clint was amazing," she confirms. "He is truly a legend, so to share the screen with him was an honor."

"Amy was a joy to work with," says Eastwood, who was equally impressed with Adams' skills on the diamond. "Mickey's a girl who was raised on baseball, and one thing I admired about Amy is that she can sprint like a guy, wind up and throw a ball like a guy, and take a real swing with a bat. So she was perfect for the part of a woman who isn't an athlete, but who grew up around a sport, who has it in her blood."

Gus isn't Mickey's only sparring partner on this trip. She also has to wrestle long distance with both her boyfriend and her bosses, and fight her own developing feelings for another scout, Johnny Flanagan, played by Timberlake.

"I think Johnny is the character who looks at situations most honestly, and thus is the catalyst in forcing Mickey and Gus to face their issues," Lorenz notes. "He is a warm, likeable, energetic, charming guy, all of which can be said of Justin as well. He and Amy are both such good actors and had so much fun with their scenes together that the relationship between their characters seemed to come naturally."

Timberlake says that the atmosphere Lorenz fostered on set enabled the actors to better define those relationships. "Amy and I were able to establish really good chemistry between the two characters, which I think is a testament to Rob. He was completely all-knowing of the story we were telling, and what was right and what was interesting about each character."

A former pro pitcher, nicknamed The Flame for his 100-mile-per-hour fastball, Johnny's career was cut short, and he has turned to scouting…for now. Timberlake reveals, "The first time we see him, he's on the side of the road, watching a bunch of kids in a pick-up game and speaking into a recorder, giving the play-by-play. It's an early hint that, now that his career as a player is over, he's honing his chops, hoping to get into broadcasting."

The actor drew on his own experiences "calling" games. "When I was a kid, I used to mimic the announcers, trying to replicate that rhythm and charisma they have. It's an audio-only performance so you really have to connect to your audience-the fans-because you're narrating a part of life that they're so passionate about."

It was Gus, in fact, who brought Johnny up to "the show" when he pitched for the Braves. Now, Gus and Johnny, who's scouting for the Red Sox, are both looking to add Gentry to their respective teams. In spite of their presumed rivalry, Gus still acts as something of a mentor to the younger man, who even picks up a few pointers from Mickey.

Mickey didn't learn everything she knows from her dad, though-she spent her youth around Gus's old pals in the business, as well. One such friend, Pete Klein, is, in part, the reason why she's in North Carolina.

Cast in the role, John Goodman says, "Pete's the chief of scouts for the Braves, so he's in charge of the guys who go out in the field to spot the talent. He goes to the mat for Gus, because, as cranky as Gus is, Pete loves him, and he appreciates that he has almost a sixth sense when it comes to his job."

And because he knows Gus well enough to know when something's not right with him, Pete turns to Mickey. "She's got a pretty good eye for baseball herself; she's definitely her father's daughter. Pete tries to persuade her-guilt her, if that's what it takes-to go and help her dad out," he concedes.

According to Michele Weisler, "Pete is the guardian angel of the piece. He's Gus's best friend, his ally, his supporter, and Mickey is very dear to him as well. His presence has to be felt throughout the film, even though he's back in Atlanta, so having someone of John's stature in the role was so important."

Even though Pete is on Gus's side, certain members of the organization are trying to push him, and those like him, out of the bleachers, to make way for a new age of scouting: number crunchers. Phillip Sanderson, played by Matthew Lillard, leads the charge.

"Phil is definitely new school," Lillard says. "He follows the stats online, essentially working at the opposite end of the spectrum from guys like Gus and Pete. So when he hears about an up-and-comer like Bo Gentry, who everyone knows can change the landscape of an organization, he doesn't want to wait for old men like Gus to go look at him. He just wants to go by the numbers in front of him."

Hot hitter Bo Gentry is played by newcomer Joe Massingill in his feature film debut. And Lorenz, in collaboration with casting director Geoff Miclat, brought in a string of heavy hitters to round out the "Trouble with the Curve" cast, including Robert Patrick as Atlanta Braves General Manager Vince Freeman; Ed Lauter, Chelcie Ross and Ray Anthony Thomas as fellow scouts; and George Wyner, Bob Gunton and Jack Gilpin as high-powered lawyers in Mickey's firm. Eastwood also shares the screen with son Scott Eastwood, who plays Billy Clark, one of Gus's discoveries, who's now in a slump.

To ensure a sense of realism on the playing field, Lorenz also hired baseball coordinator Aimee McDaniel to help organize, choreograph and rehearse the athletes, and train the actors to look like players, even Amy Adams.

McDaniel recalls, "We worked with Amy for four or five days, and by the end of that time, she looked like she'd been catching baseballs her whole life. To have an actress of that caliber just throw herself into something like that made my job easy. And the rest of the cast was equally devoted."

"Aimee came to Georgia and basically recruited all the different teams and help we needed," Lorenz attests. "She did a great job, so that was one aspect of production I didn't have to worry about. Everybody knew what they were doing and they were all good players…or at least looked like they were."

GUS

I just didn't want you to have a life in the cheap seats, that's all.

MICKEY

They weren't the cheap seats. Spending every waking moment with my dad, watching baseball… Those were the best seats in the house.

"Trouble with the Curve" takes place in Atlanta-home of the Braves, as well as Gus and Mickey-and in and around North Carolina, where the father and daughter hit the road to get a good look at potential draftee Bo Gentry of the Swannanoa High School Grizzlies. Principal photography, however, was accomplished entirely in Georgia. Throughout it all, Lorenz received support behind the scenes from frequent Malpaso collaborators, including director of photography Tom Stern, production designer James J. Murakami, costume designer Deborah Hopper, and location manager Patrick O. Mignano, who was instrumental in securing one of the production's greatest coups: shooting at Atlanta's Turner Field.

"In the script, Gus is a scout for the Braves, so the idea was presented to team President John Schuerholz." notes Mignano. "He read the script, and saw that it was a love letter to baseball, and that helped pave the way."

The scenes shot at Turner were achieved just ahead of the team's home opener-though some of the players were on the field warming up while the cast and crew were shooting in another part of the stadium. "Luckily, their first games of the season were out of town, which gave us a little extra time," Mignano shares.

They also shot in the facility at Georgia Tech, and filmed a minor league game at Luther Williams Field in Macon.

The fictional Swannanoa High School was located in Dunwoody, just north of Atlanta. Additional "away" games were shot in Jasper, where Jasper City Park became the film's Arden High School, and a championship game was played at Young Harris College, just a few miles from the North Carolina border in North Georgia. "You can see the Appalachians in the background, so it was a terrific mountain setting," Mignano reports.

Baseball scouts aren't always at the field, of course, and a lot of the film's action takes place in their other homes-away-from-home: motels, diners and bars.

Atlanta's Silver Skillet, Homegrown Café, Two Urban Licks, and The Globe in Athens, doubled as the various eateries in the film; Macon's Cheers Bar, Atlanta's George's Restaurant and Bar, and Conyers' Hank & Jerry's Tavern became the local watering holes; and the Amicalola Lodge Motel in Dawsonville served as the inn. Private residences in Decatur and Atlanta and a skyscraper on Peachtree were used for Gus and Mickey's homes and her law office. And the lake at Camp Dixie in Clayton provided a cool place for Mickey and Johnny to take a dip.

"These guys are constantly on the road, traveling, going to stadiums and small farm clubs, high school games, college games," Eastwood comments. "They spend hundreds of days a year in hotels, looking for that one in a million."

Sports fans know that baseball, like life, is a game filled with opportunities that can be hit-or missed-in the blink of an eye. In "Trouble with the Curve," Gus Lobel is faced with the toughest test of his career. Problem is, he'll have to let his daughter Mickey, lend a hand, or he could be out of the game for good.

"Having to ask for help is something we all have to learn to do, no matter how reluctant we might be. That's just reality. When you let your guard down, and let someone in, it actually makes you stronger," Eastwood states.

Weisler adds, "I think Rob really wanted to make a movie that struck a chord emotionally, and that would tell a story that's passionate and funny, and that inspires people to do things differently in their own lives, despite how scary change can be."

Lorenz concludes, "To me, an important theme of the story is that of persistence. All of the characters are facing challenges that bring them to a breaking point, and they must push beyond if they're going to succeed."

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