Moneyball at UC Irvine: An Oscar Snub, Gillespie, Speaks

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The Academy Award nominations were announced on Jan. 24, and I know all of you are as shocked as I was that UC Irvine baseball’s Manager Mike Gillespie was left off the ballot for best supporting actor.

How could anyone forget his role in Moneyball? In case you did, Gillespie performed the best 10 seconds of acting in cinematographic history. In 10 seconds, he didn’t say a word. I don’t even think he blinked. Yet everyone loves Jean Dujardin in The Artist; he didn’t say a word either.

So why was Gillespie snubbed? Playing A’s assistant coach Ken Macha, Gillespie’s arms firmly sat atop his chest, while he stared sternly across a desk at Brad Pitt (A’s General Manager Billy Beane), who was receiving a tongue-lashing from Phillip Seymour Hoffman (A’s manager Art Howe). He didn’t even quiver in the presence of the two-time People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive recipient — what poise.

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting down to a Chipotle burrito at the store off of Bison and MacArthur. In strolled Gillespie. As he waited patiently in line to be helped, he peered up at his options, with his arms folded across his chest, just as he did in Moneyball. Pure genius!

I let him eat in peace, but last week I caught up with the Hall of Fame manager and Hollywood A-lister in his office at Newkirk Pavilion at Cicerone Field.

Gillespie explains that he was originally hired on to hit ground balls as Macha in a spring training scene filmed at West LA College. After one day of filming, the crew asked him to come in the next day to film at Blair Field, home of the Long Beach State Dirtbags. Standing around in the clubhouse, the crew asked Gillespie to be a stand-in during a heated clubhouse scene.

“So I’m standing there against a file cabinet,” Gillespie said, “for no other reason other than they just asked us to come in as fillers, and I decided to stand there.”

After Gillespie’s scene was filmed over and over again, the crew asked him to throw in some baseball jargon to make the scene believable.

“Billy’s going to say, ‘How do you think yesterday went,’ and then you tell him,” the production crew told Gillespie.

“I’m thinking, is this guy kidding me?” Gillespie said. “He wants me to say something; he’s not telling me what to say. These guys can wing it, but that’s the way they do things at times. And all of the sudden I’m kind of shook. I’m a little rattled. They say ‘Quiet on the set, action, rolling,’ and Billy Beane looks at me and says, ‘How’d you think yesterday went?’ So I come up with an answer. ‘Cut! That’s great, do it again,’ and they do it again 10 times.

“That never got into the movie. […] The whole idea was that they had this controversy about Scott Hatteberg, Billy Beane is for him and Art Howe is against him. And my deal is that I’m now going to blow him up, just because I’m standing across from Billy. And I’m going to say ‘he’s got no chance at playing first base. He’s got hands of stone, he’s got no range; he can’t catch a cold.’ None of it got in there.”

As Gillespie sat watching the movie in theaters, he saw a highlight film of Hatteberg (played by Chris Pratt) struggling to gain composure as a first baseman after transitioning from the catcher position.

“[I] actually hear my voice,” Gillespie said. “It went by me as I’m watching the movie. That was me! But that scene where he and I are talking back and forth, it never got in there, but there was this voiceover that did get in. You actually hear my voice before you ever see me.”

At the end of filming for the day, an assistant director walked up to Gillespie.

“He said ‘Hey, I’ve got some good news and some bad news,’” Gillespie explained. “I said, let’s hear the good news. ‘The good news is I saw the whole thing in there this morning and you were great, you’re going to win an Academy Award.’ I said, great I’ve got a place on my shelf for that.

“But the bad news is you’re fired,” the man told Gillespie.

As soon as the crew had Gillespie speak, he was automatically required to be paid four times as much as he had been as a stand-in. Even if he never spoke again, they would’ve had to pay him that rate every day.

“You have 20 million dollars for Brad Pitt, but you don’t have an extra $500 in the budget to pay me?” Gillespie said jokingly.

Mr. Hollywood (Gillespie) returned back to Irvine after his brief cinematic career and guided the Anteaters to a 43-18 record in 2011. He explained that Pitt and Hoffman were good, normal guys, and that he didn’t get to know Jonah Hill, but that he had “heard he was a great guy to work with.”

Gillespie’s trophy case has some space this year, either until he appears in another baseball film and the Academy Awards finally come knocking, or until the Anteaters knock on the door at the College World Series in Omaha. Hopefully for the Anteaters’ sake, it’s the latter.

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