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MONEYBALL

The Front Office and the Home Front
Billy Beane's revamping of the Oakland A's was a collaborative effort, one that relied on his recruitment of a team of economic analysts who replaced baseball's hunches and gut instincts with a fresh skew towards science. To capture the essence of the math brains who changed American sports, the screenwriters created a character: Peter Brand.

As played by Jonah Hill, Brand is an Ivy League economist turned unlikely baseball analyst – a guy who in any other field might be among the best and brightest, but in baseball has been relegated to outsider status. It is Brand who keys Beane into one of the main insights behind the "moneyball” concept: that the value of a baseball player isn't something you can see or sense, but something you find lurking in the numbers. When Beane hires Brand away from the Cleveland Indians with the intention to put his stats-based approach front and center for the A's – no matter the fallout -- he sets the two men on a collision course with baseball orthodoxy.

"Peter Brand is an outsider,” says Miller. "He's an Ivy League kid with a degree in economics and a perspective on the game that nobody in baseball could possibly have had. Billy plucks Pete from a cubicle in Cleveland and weaponizes him.”

Best known for his comedic performances, Hill welcomed the chance to sink his teeth into a subtle, dramatic performance. He approached the character as a baseball interloper driven by a true love of the game, and a man who grows on the job.

"Peter Brand is the kind of guy who really should be a billionaire on Wall Street, except that he loves baseball,” observes Hill. "Because of his background, he judges players in a different way than the system supports. He's all about the facts. He realizes it's not about how a guy throws, how fast he runs or what he looks like. It's about how often he gets on base.”

Yet what seems perfectly logical to Brand, comes across at first to the rest of the baseball world as a threat to a grand tradition. "It's a natural reaction,” notes Hill. "Any time you try to change the way things are done, people from the previous generations are going to be upset, especially if you're saying what they're doing is unproductive. You can understand why they think ‘who is this kid using a computer to tell me who the players should be?'”

While Beane and Brand couldn't be more divergent personalities, Hill says one attitude unites them. "For both men, it's them versus the world,” Hill explains. "These are two guys with their backs against the wall who find the guts to fight for what they believe in.”

The evolving interplay of Beane and Brand's partnership became a deeper entrée into the story's themes of the intricate algorithms of human value and success. Observes Rachael Horovitz: "Billy and Peter complement each other, but there's a subtle, healthy jealousy too. The simple fact that Peter is educated, has his whole life in front of him, hasn't made any mistakes yet - these givens are a constant presence in their relationship - they are facts Billy is aware of and even speaks to when the going gets tough. In turn, Peter is never going to get to play for the Mets or anybody else. And you just know that disappoints him on some level.”

When Billy and Peter team up to put their theories of assembling a team into actual practice, their endeavor is, at first, vociferously opposed by the A's field manager, Art Howe, the man traditionally charged with choosing the game line-up and guiding strategy on the field. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who earned an Oscar® for his portrayal of the legendary novelist in Bennett Miller's Capote, approached Howe as a man so entwined in the baseball establishment he can't yet see past it.

Billy Beane enjoyed watching Hoffman embody the role. "Philip has great presence and that's one thing that Art had. He's 6 foot 3, in tremendous physical condition and he had a real physical presence about him, and I thought Hoffman gave that off as well.”

Hoffman says it was the creative atmosphere on set that gave the relationships the frisson of reality. "Bennett led everybody with a really strong hand,” he says. "The rehearsals -- with Brad, Jonah, Bennett and myself all in the room fleshing out these scenes – were very satisfying. And, at the same time, there was also this great sense of us challenging each other.”

"Phil is an old friend – we talk to each other often about what we're doing,” says Miller. "Of course, we talked about Moneyball, but not as something to collaborate on, because he had a prior commitment. It turned out that his previous commitment got pushed and he asked me if I had I cast the role of Art Howe? I hadn't, he said he'd like to do it, I said, Great. That was that. If he wants to do something, why would you say no?”

Robin Wright, a Golden Globe nominee for Forrest Gump, and soon to be seen in David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, took the role of Sharon, Beane's ex-wife, who was with him when he appeared to be one of the hottest prospects in professional baseball. Now remarried, Sharon and Billy share custody of their daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey), who closely watches her father's career.

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