Does Parks & Recreation star Chris Pratt strike you as a Major League Baseball home run hitter? Probably not.
Neither did the filmmakers behind Moneyball, the upcoming baseball film based on the analytical approach to baseball utilized by Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics since 1998, yet Pratt stars as Scott Hatteberg, one of Beane’s star signings.
Pratt admits in an interview with Movieline that as much as he wanted the part he almost didn’t get it, explaining “It was definitely something that I wanted, but I was just one of just a giant number of people who wanted the role. I read it and thought that it was incredible. My first audition was with [Moneyball director] Bennett Miller and I thought it went well. I felt like we found some real moments. Then, when I left, my agent called me and said, ‘Chris, they really thought you were good, but they think you’re too fat.’ I was like, ‘F—, really? That sucks. OK, well, I can lose weight. Did you tell them I could lose weight?’ ‘Yeah, we told them. They haven’t offered it to anyone else. There’s no guarantee, but…’ I just hung up the phone and from that point on — it was about a seven month process from that moment until the end of filming. It was another three months before I found out I got the role, but in that three months I think I dropped 30 pounds. I was bound and determined to become Scott Hatteberg whether they cast me or not.”
The hard work paid off for Pratt, who was eventually cast in the film after an audition which involved actual baseball practice, as realism was important to the filmmakers. “They did a very thorough tryout as part of my auditioning process. After I read with Bennett and came back and read with Brad and maybe read with Bennett again — I think I had three readings at this point — I still didn’t get the part. But, I was still bound and determined to do it, and I was still, at this point, a little heavy as well. I went to a baseball tryout, a physical audition, and there were several hundred players there. These guys were pros. Literally ex-professional baseball players, both from minor and major league, but also foreign teams, ex-college guys. These were guys with tattoos of baseball bats on their body — they were real baseball players. We did a tryout and that’s how they cast 95 percent of the baseball players, was just based on physical ability and the likeness to the real players in real life. So, you’re definitely seeing baseball players play real baseball. I think that was really important for Bennett and everyone making the movie to stay authentic to the sport.”
Yet Pratt admits he took inspiration for his dramatic turn in the film by watching co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman. He observed Hoffman on set, and spoke about what he found impressive by Hoffman’s technique by saying “Maybe five minutes before rolling, he adopts this behavior that lets everyone know you’re not supposed to talk to him in the best way. He puts his head down and starts pacing back and forth. You’re in a stadium with thousands of extras, hundreds of crew people and another 40-50 baseball players. There’s a lot of people and a lot of conversation to be had, but when it’s time to focus you have to focus. That’s what I noticed with him — his incredible focus. When it was time to go to work he would start pacing and that just commanded respect. People left him alone because it was his process. That’s something that really works, because if you’re sitting there in your head and you’re trying to get yourself ready for a scene and someone comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, how’s it going? You know a friend of mine!’ or ‘Hey, my name’s Tony?’ You don’t want to be like, ‘Leave me alone!’ Because you come off like a dick. So, I’ve sorta taken that from him. It really lets everybody know, in a polite way, please don’t bother me right now.”
Perhaps the influence of Hoffman has pushed Pratt to pursue more dramatic roles, as Pratt confesses that he finds drama far more challenging as an actor. He explains, “Comedy is something that when you’re onset, it just kinda happens. You can’t really explain it — you try things and you know. That’s the big difference between comedy and drama. You know when comedy is working. You do a take and in your head you think, ‘OK, that’s the funniest take of all.’ When you do drama you’re like, ‘I have no f—ing idea if that was good or not.’ The process of drama falls so much more on the filmmaker than with comedy. With comedy, it’s a combination of knowing the comedic beat was good — it made you laugh, it made people on the crew laugh. With drama, you do something deep and if your stuff was really effective, the ultimate result is silence. Silence is not necessarily… that would also be the result if you sucked. That challenge is what makes it such a turn-on.”
Moneyball is set for a September 23 release.