Brad Pitt on the Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

Brad Pitt, the star of the upcoming movie Moneyball, doffs an Oakland A’s hat and graces the cover of this week’s September 26, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday. Pitt joins an exclusive group of non-athletes and non-coaches to be so honored — a list that includes Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, Stephen Colbert, Bob Hope, Ed Sullivan, Steve McQueen and Arnold Schwarzenegger in addition to former presidents John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan (appearances on the 11/26/84 and 2/16/87 covers) and Bill Clinton.

Commenting on his photo shoot with SI photographer Simon Bruty, Pitt says: “I was just happy to do Sports Illustrated. To do something other than the fashion-y things, for something I respect, is much more fun.”

Senior writer Austin Murphy (@si_austinmurphy) spoke at great length with Pitt about getting Moneyball made. Among the topics they discussed:

  • Pitt’s background (or lack thereof) in baseball: “It’s shameful how little I know about baseball…. I’m amazed they let me do this movie…. Baseball and I didn’t get along that well. I wrestled one year [in high school]. I dove one year. Everything but baseball.”
  • How Pitt acquitted himself to his role as a baseball lifer: “I’m an Oklahoma-Missouri boy, so I’m no stranger to a bit of dip. We start early with that, so really, I was just revisiting my roots.”
  • What Pitt was initially drawn to about the story: “I’m a sucker for the underdog story.”
  • The end goal of the film: “What we were trying to do is tell an unconventional story in the Trojan horse of a conventional baseball movie.”
  • The comparisons Pitt makes to the movie and three of his favorite ’70s films (The French Connection, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, All the President’s Men): “In scripts today, someone has a big epiphany, learns a lesson, then comes out the other side different. In these older films I’m talking about, the beast at the end of the movie was the same beast in the beginning of the movie. What changed was the world around them, by just a couple of degrees. Nothing monumental. I think that’s true about us. We fine‑tune ourselves, but big change is not real.”

Murphy spoke with several other people who saw Moneyball through on its long journey to the big screen. Among them:

  • Director Bennett Miller, on how unlikely it was for the movie to be completed: “It seemed like a shoot-the-moon project because it was complex and messed up in a thousand different ways.”
  • Billy Beane, recalling when Michael Lewis followed him around in 2002 for the book: “When he first came here, we didn’t know he was going to write a book. But he’s a great storyteller, and just an interesting person. And really, that’s how he ended up getting the access he did. He sort of hypnotized us.”
  • Lewis, on not getting too involved with the film adaptation of his book: “Nobody really gives a s‑‑‑ what I think. And I don’t either! … They shouldn’t care. I’m glad they don’t care. It suggests a certain level of initiative on their part. Having said all that, I’d say they got my book on the screen about as well as you can get my book on the screen.”
  • Jonah Hill, on working with his esteemed Moneyball co-stars, producers and screenwriters: “I kind of felt just like Peter Brand, the youngest person in the room with all these revered professionals.”

Murphy’s profile of Moneyball includes the following praise for the film and cast:

  • “Like all enduring sports movies, this one transcends its genre.”
  • “The film is so crisp and clean…. [Bennett] Miller’s pace and storytelling [is] seamless.”
  • “[Phillip Seymour] Hoffman’s obstinate, dyspeptic take on the obstinate, dyspeptic [Art] Howe is a darkly comic gem.”
  • “[Jonah Hill’s] depiction of [Peter] Brand…. is a masterpiece of understatement.”

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