A whole new pitch as Jon Hamm faces life after Don
As the end approaches for Mad Men, Hamm takes his biggest film role yet, in baseball movie Million Dollar Arm. He talks about success, his sporting life, and ‘curious’ Daniel Radcliffe
Jon Hamm: ‘I don’t believe in this divide: that you’re either sporty or arty or mathsy or a dreamer.’ Photograph: Ian West/PA Wire
Jon Hamm with Madhur Mittal in Million Dollar Arm
Jon Hamm is almost 6ft 2in. But, in person, when he jumps to his feet, the process seems to take even longer than one might expect. Maybe it’s an attitudinal thing. The 43-year-old is, it soon transpires, a relaxed, thoughtful fellow, precisely the kind of “cooler head” he hopes may soon prevail in Missouri, the troubled state where he was born and raised.
Or maybe it’s just his inner sports billy. Even under today’s thicket of beard and tweed cap, he still looks athletic. His physical movements are precise and easy. The shoulders are broad. The tan says “outdoorsy”.
“I have always considered myself a bit of an athlete,” he nods. “Mostly I like to play sports because I really don’t like to work out.” He winks. “Of course, I wish I was a bit younger – less aches and pains – but such is life.”
He soldiers on, nonetheless, with golf, tennis and avid fandom. When he isn’t participating he can be found cheering for St Louis Blues in the National Hockey League and St Louis Cardinals in Major League Baseball.
Sure enough, he knows one ball from another: he gamely affects a goofy Liverpudlian accent to chat about soccer. It’s not the most convincing Scouse sound, but maybe that’s deliberate. Hamm has a commendably offbeat sense of humour, as evidenced by his involvement in such Adult Swim comedies as Metalocalypse, Robot Chicken and Family Guy. “Liverpool,” he grins endearingly, through a vaguely Mancunian brogue.
Biggest role yet
Ball-watching is a skill set that came in handy for Hamm’s biggest film role to date. Disney’s Million Dollar Arm is based on the true story of an unlikely, zany talent search for baseball prospects around the Asian subcontinent.
In it, Hamm plays JB Bernstein, a struggling sports agent who travels to India in the hope of finding a promising young cricketer who can be retrained in baseball. Using a national contest called the Million Dollar Arm, Bernstein soon discovers Rinku (Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Slumdog Millionaire’s Madhur Mittal) and brings the youngsters back to Los Angeles. Unhappily, life in Tinseltown is challenging for boys who have never previously ventured outside the rural villages where they were born. And baseball proves even tougher to master.
“The best analogy I can think of is, if I handed you a golf club aged 17 and you’d never seen one before,” he says. “You’re asking, ‘What is this?’ And I say, ‘Next year you’re going to play in the Masters.’ That’s never going to happen. It’s just not. It’s kind of impossible. I don’t want people to walk away thinking this is a sports movie. It’s more than that. It’s a true story. Having met Rinku and Dinesh in real life, I still don’t know if I can entirely get my head around the enormity of what they accomplished.”