Brad Pitt makes pitch as 'Moneyball' nears opening

TORONTO (AP) -September 9, 2011

The actor was asked about his favorite sports movies Friday as he debuted his new project, "Moneyball," at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"As a kid I loved 'Bad News Bears," he told a news conference. "I had loved 'North Dallas Forty' with Nick Nolte. I think it was the first R-rated film I ever snuck into, so it has a special place in my heart."

Pitt stars as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, who used an analysis system called sabermetrics in hopes of competing against teams with larger payrolls. Based on the 2003 book by Michael Lewis, the film has traveled a rocky road.

Three writers and three directors have had a hand in the movie, which opens Sept. 23 and co-stars Jonah Hill as Peter Brand, the nerdy whiz kid who helps Beane, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as A's manager Art Howe.

Pitt came aboard in 2007 and said he stuck with the troubled project because he was captivated by the way the main characters reinvented themselves.

"Ultimately, I couldn't let go of the story of these guys who, by necessity ... were trapped in an unfair game, an unfair situation. ... They had to think differently."

"Moneyball" apparently confounded some big names on its way to the big screen - Steven Soderbergh and Aaron Sorkin were at times attached to the project. Pitt said personnel changes were necessary because of the material.

"It's not your conventional story or story line with a conventional character arc," the "Ocean's Eleven" star said. "So it took a lot of shots at it and a lot of people getting their fingerprints on it and trying to figure out what this thing would be."

The movie sticks to baseball, with nary a romance to be found.

As "Moneyball" begins, Beane is faced with the prospect of losing such A's stars as Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi. He soon takes a chance on Brand, who is insistent his analysis system will allow the A's to hold their own against big-market teams.

Director Bennett Miller ("Capote"), who ultimately brought the project to completion, says although "Moneyball" is most certainly about baseball greater themes are at play.

"This is a guy whose life did not turn out the way it was supposed to," Miller said of Beane, whose career as a player did not go as planned.

"Moneyball" employed various baseball players to play big leaguers, with the notable exception of Chris Pratt ("Parks and Recreation") as first baseman Scott Hatteberg.

"What inspired me was hanging out with real baseball players," he said. "Every baseball player, apart from myself, did play in the pros, on either the minor or major league level or in college or farm leagues. I mean these guys are throwing 95 mph fastballs. Every bit of baseball you see is real."

Hill spoke of how grateful he was that producers took a chance on him for the 2007 comedy "Superbad," and how he feels similarly thankful for "Moneyball."

"I was a very unconventional person to be in this dramatic movie," said the actor, who has undergone a transformative weight loss that has startlingly altered his appearance. "I do feel I continually get that underdog opportunity and I can't stop smiling about that."

The Toronto International Film Festival runs until Sept. 18.

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