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MILLION DOLLAR ARM

On Location In India
The film began principal photography in India, where the company shot for almost three weeks. First stop, Mumbai, the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashta, the most populous city in India. With approximately 20.5 million residents, it is the fourth most populated city on the planet.

"India. I don't know where to begin," director Gillespie says. "First off , I have to say I loved the Indian crew. They were game for anything and everything and there's a certain chaos inherent to shooting amongst all those people. It was interesting, the first day we were shooting in Old Mumbai. There were thousands of people, we didn't have any police escort. We were shooting on the street and at that point, I turned to my Indian gaffer, Sanjay, and I said, 'Is this what it is normally like here?' And he said, 'Oh we don't shoot here. It's too chaotic. We'd be shooting it on a stage.' But we wanted to get that authentic Indian experience which I loved ultimately. We certainly dove into the deep end. We'd be shooting on bridges and cement trucks would plow through. There's a sort of organized chaos going on. I'm sure there's a saner way to do things but we didn't choose that way."

The company traveled progressively inland, to Lucknow, the capital city of the state of Uttar Pradesh, where they decamped for several days at Lucknow University, to film the scenes in which Rinku and Dinesh win the "The Million Dollar Arm" tournament. They ended their stay in Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. Just as Bernstein had, the cast and crew of "Million Dollar Arm" visited all segments of Indian society, from busy wholesale markets to a rural village, painstakingly recreating Bernstein's incredible adventure. Indeed, the ebullient parade of villagers who greet JB, Rinku and Dinesh with a cascade of color, music and sparkle, hoisting them up on a truck like rajas, is based on a real reference photo that Bernstein provided.

Both cknow and the village scene illustrate Gillespie's commitment to authenticity and his microscopic attention to detail. "I always draw from reality first. Even when we were in India, I gave the art department all these photographs that JB had sent to recreate the village scenes, down to the pitching contests and how they were set up with the cages and the crowds and where the tables were, I wanted to be true to that. We even shot in Lucknow, where the boys are from and where some of the 'The Million Dollar Arm' competition happened," Gillespie says.

Temperatures peaked at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit and hit triple digits by mid-morning. The filmmakers had no choice but to shoot in the spring, the country's hottest season, due to actor schedules and a need to avoid the summer monsoons. Despite the brutal heat, two key people were unfailingly energetic and positive and rarely left the set for the comfort of their trailer - or, even, the shade of a tree: director Craig Gillespie and star Jon Hamm.

"Jon was a trooper," the director continues. "He's in every scene and he was really committed. He has a real camaraderie with everyone on the set, cast and crew, and that really helped set the tone. I don't think he does that by design; I think that's just who he is."

Hamm calls Gillespie, who eschews director's chairs on a set and is constantly on his feet, the "Energizer Bunny of directors."

"Craig was definitely our leader, especially in India," Hamm explains. "When people started getting tired you just had to look at Craig, who was running around, covered in sweat but having the time of his life. I remember coming back to the hotel after one really, really hot day - okay, they were all hot days - and all I wanted to do was fall into the pool. On my way there, I saw Craig - running on the treadmill! I knocked on the window and said, 'Are you kidding me?' He had to be as tired as I was but he kept on going. I know a little bit about what it takes to direct something and you have to be That Guy - to everybody. You have to set the example and he did a wonderful job of that."

Hamm adds that, overall, fi lming in India was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that actually helped him understand his character's physical, emotional and intellectual journey, especially because the shooting schedule paralleled the path that JB Bernstein took.

"I didn't meet Suraj or Madhur until I came to India, as JB didn't find Rinku or Dinesh until he got there," Hamm says. "That was a fascinating way to start. It was like, okay, here we go, on this adventure together. In many ways, it mimicked the real-life journey. We began the film in India, before we got to the States, and experienced all of the chaos and beauty together, and got to know each other in the process. Pitobash, too - he's a big deal in India, but he had never been to the States before, just as in the real story. A big part of India was us figuring each other out in real time, much like what happened to JB. We became a little family in India, and we brought it back here to the States."

Alan Arkin, just like his cranky character Ray, would perhaps have preferred that JB found his baseball phenoms just outside of Paris. However, the 79-year-old used his discomfort to his advantage. When JB pours a bottle of water over his face to make sure he hasn't passed out, his arched reply, "I hope that was filtered water," is not in any script except the one in Arkin's head.

"India was, well, imagine somebody saying let's shoot a movie in the three hottest cities in India, which is maybe the hottest country in the world, and let's shoot it in the summer time in the hottest month, while they are having a heat wave," Arkin says. "It was easily 120, maybe 125 degrees. I've described it to people as, imagine being on the platform, down on Grand Central on the 7 train heading to Queens, on the hottest day, the most humidity in the history of New York, and just hot air blasting, and then imagine you are there for 12 hours. And then add 30 degrees to that. Survival has never been part of my ethic before, but for the time in India, that was the extent of my work process, to live through the day. It is a wonderful country but I'm just happy to be alive."

"Million Dollar Arm" completed photography on location in Atlanta, Georgia, with a couple days in Los Angeles. As in the real story, as the Americans returned home, they were definitely affected by their stay in India and the Indian actors were similarly excited and a little overwhelmed by their new, temporary Southern home. While Sharma, Mittal and Pitobash had been to the States before, they had never been to Atlanta. Little things were new to them. The honeyed native drawl endlessly fascinated them, especially Sharma, and some of the food was deeply mysterious - succotash was a mouthful and grits were slightly suspicious.

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