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,"
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
"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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