Lake Bell loves family element of sports movies like 'Million Dollar Arm'

The Fresno BeeMay 14, 2014 

Lake Bell in "Million Dollar Arm."


Lake Bell is not an avid sports fan, but she does love the sports movie genre.

"I'm a sucker for a sports movie. That's because all of the really good and classic sports movies have such a strong emotional core that even if you don't know anything about the sport, you won't be left behind," Bell says.

Bell is now part of the sports movie genre with her starring role in "Million Dollar Arm." The film — based on a true story — looks at the efforts of a struggling sports agent (Jon Hamm) to create a media frenzy around finding the first Major League Baseball pitcher from India. Bell plays Brenda, the woman renting the agent's guest house, who gets pulled in as emotional support once the young athletes come to America.

One of the reasons Bell was attracted to the project was that it's based in fact.

"That means it's about real people with real stakes. Tom McCarthy wrote a beautiful script that's respectful to all of the characters," Bell says. "Brenda could have been a peripheral player left on the sidelines, but she's written rich and with purpose. She's very sweet and maternal."

Several changes were made between the original events in "Million Dollar Arm" and those that appeared on screen, including changing her character from being a woman who sells aircraft to being a nurse. Those changes didn't bother Bell because they didn't change the heart and soul of the film — the connection people from different worlds can make even in the most stressful times.

Bell's been a working actor long enough to know how poorly such roles can be written. The New York native started her professional career in 2002 with a guest spot on "ER," then starred in the 2003 TV series "Miss Match." Since then she's appeared in a host of other TV shows, including her current work on "Children's Hospital."

Her feature films include "What Happens in Vegas," "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" and "Pride and Glory." Her acting work, along with writing and directing the feature "In A World … ," earned her a spot as a judge at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

"I am definitely a natural multitasker," Bell says with a laugh. "I enjoy every aspect of filmmaking, and I'm very respectful of the process. I am constantly inspired by the organism of making movies. I love movies and this is something I hope to do for the rest of my life."

"Million Dollar Arm" gave Bell a chance to work with Hamm, who she's known for years. She calls him "a lovely guy and incredibly funny," adding that Hamm is "a real goofball."

Goofball might not be the right word to describe Bell, but she's worked in plenty of comedy projects over the years. She gets to show a little of her humorous side in "Million Dollar Arm," but she spends most of the time as the maternal part of what she considers a dysfunctional family.

"That makes this a movie about family that is good for the entire family, no matter the age range," Bell says.


TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, or @RickBentley1 on Twitter.

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