Read our exclusive interview with Stephen Bishop, who plays former Major League Baseball outfielder David Justice in the upcoming biographical comedy-drama ‘Moneyball,’ which is based on the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. The film, which is based on the novel “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis and is set to be released on September 23, 2011, also stars Brad Pitt as Beane. Bishop discusses with us, among other things, how being friends with Justice prepared him for his portrayal, and how well his working relationship with Pitt was.
Shockya (SY): You portray former Major League Baseball outfielder David Justice in the upcoming film ‘Moneyball,’ Did being a player in the Pioneer Minor Baseball League yourself in the 1990s influence your decision to portray David, who played for the Athletics in 2002, in the film?
Stephen Bishop (SB): No, it didn’t influence the decision, but it definitely helped give me a bit of perspective. Having an idea, at least on some level, of what professional baseball players go through and the emotions they experience was a huge advantage when attempting to accurately portray David.
SY: What was your audition process like for the movie? Did you have to go through any try-out periods to prove your playing skills for director Bennett Miller and the producers?
SB: I had four auditions. One was a tryout where I had to show my skills, but the other three were strictly acting auditions.
SY: How did you prepare for the role? Did you meet David and/or do research into his life and career before you began filming?
SB: I actually already knew David from my playing days with the Braves. He and I are friends, and have been since then, so it wasn’t too hard to prepare. I idolized him as a kid and so I knew his mannerisms, etc., so that made it quite easy to transform physically. I called him and asked him some questions about his mindset during that time in his career and his relationship with Billy Beane. He was very helpful and generous with his insights.
SY: While shooting ‘Moneyball,’ did you feel any pressure to portray David in a certain way? What were the hardest and easiest parts of the role?
SB: I felt a pressure to make sure he was portrayed in the best light possible while not taking anything away from the story that was being told. David is a great guy and I wanted to make sure that he was happy with the way I played him. Also, I wanted his fans to be impressed with the similarity between the character and the man. The easiest part was getting his swing down. I knew it like the back of my hand anyway. The hardest part was learning to throw left-handed.
SY: Brad Pitt portrays Billy in ‘Moneyball.’ What was your experience like working with him?
SB: Brad was a great guy. (He’s) really down to earth, despite that fact that he’s clearly a mega star. He and I had some things in common, like our affinity for green building, so we had some good conversations while shooting. I had a one-on-one scene with him, so I got a chance to spend some significant time with him and was impressed with his cool. He even signed the jersey I wore in the film so that I could frame it. I also got David to sign it so that’s my prized possession right now.
SY: After leaving the Pioneer League, why did you decide to become an actor? What was the transition like from playing baseball to becoming an actor?
SB: Well, actually it was when I left the California league that I decided to make the transition. I felt that GOD was trying to tell me that it was time to get off the baseball train and transfer to the one that would take me to my ultimate destination. I knew in school that after baseball acting would be something I’d be interested in. I took drama courses in college, and the professor really encouraged me to continue. So when I was released by Baltimore, there was just that epiphany moment that set me on this course.
SY: You’re also set to appear in next year’s anticipated sci-fi naval war movie ‘Battleship,’ which follows an international naval fleet at Pearl Harbor that participates in a battle against an alien race known as The Regents. The aliens come to Earth to build a power source in the ocean. What makes ‘Battleship’ unique from other sci-fi alien films?
SB: I really don’t know yet because I haven’t seen it. I really only know what happened during my part of the movie. I will say that the effects and the alien ships look incredibly real. (Director and producer) Peter Berg is a genius, so I think this will be as realistic as any film in that genre.
SY: Besides ‘Battleship,’ you’ll also be seen in next year’s action thriller ‘Safe House,’ alongside Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington. The film chronicles a CIA-operated safe house being targeted. Its house-sitter is given the difficult task of moving the criminal who is being hidden there to another secure location. Why did you decide to portray a Marine guard in the film?
SB: I took that role because producer Scott Stuber requested me for it. He was also the producer of ‘Battleship’ and another film I did early in my career, ‘The Rundown.’ I also relished the opportunity to work with Denzel Washington. I consider him to be the greatest Black actor of all time, so it was a great honor to be on camera with him. I loved the fact that I’d get to go head up with such a talented man and test my skills. I learned some things about myself while shooting that one. I came off of that shoot with a great deal of confidence in my ability. Denzel was very complimentary of my work and I really took that to heart.
SY: Why do you feel it’s important and necessary for the entertainment industry to reflect on important issues plaguing America?
SB: I think it’s important because we have a voice that resonates through every corner of the country. Just about everyone gets some form of entertainment, whether it is film, TV or music, and so we have the range to touch all walks of life. I think it’s bigger than just America though. The problems plaguing the world need to be addressed. Since the world seems to look up to, and respect, the views of entertainers, we have a responsibility to do our part in spreading the word about solutions to the problems, and to also donate our time to the causes that create these solutions.
Written by: Karen Benardello