May 22, 2014
Mark Ciardi is no stranger to challenges, having worked his way up to the major leagues, albeit for a brief stint back in 1987. This past weekend, he faced another one in a completely different career field when the movie he produced, “Million Dollar Arm,” had to open against the biggest monster movie of summer, “Godzilla.”
The movie opened decently with $10.5 million, but received an A in audience surveys, which should help it stick around a while on word of mouth. As noted in my review last Friday, it’s a solid and engaging film that is smart enough for adults and clean enough for kids to see as well, continuing a strong track record for Ciardi in his association with Disney.
In fact, he’s had seven solid hits so far in his career, many of them inspirational sports dramas like “Arm,” including “Miracle” (the story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team’s miracle win over the Soviets team) and “Invincible” (the story of a Philadelphia garbage man who became a player for the Eagles). He recently spoke with CNA about why he feels that sports dramas are great films, about foul language in movies (his have none or almost none), and his abiding Catholic faith.
CNA: How did you get involved with the “Million Dollar Arm”?
CIARDI: “We’re always obviously looking for great stories, we’ve done a lot of sports films with Disney. I knew JB [JB Bernstein, the real-life sports agent the movie is about] before I was in the film business and I ran into him in 2007 at a Super Bowl party and he said he was headed to India to find a pitcher for a reality show. I thought he was crazy and a year and a half later he told me he got the boys signed and I saw the transition he went through and I quickly realized we had something really special.”
CNA: How did you make the transition from baseball to movies?
CIARDI: When I played baseball I moved to LA and spent off-seasons here and met people in the film business. My partner Gordon Gray wanted to get into the film business. We looked at each other and said why don’t we produce movies? We worked out of a garage and decided this was something we wanted to try. That was in ’98. Basically I didn’t know any better. Our first film was “The Rookie” and that was shot in 2001 and came out in 2002.
CNA: Are these sports films all true?
CIARDI: They’re all true stories. This is our fifth sports film and they’ve been inspirational true stories. We have one with Kevin Costner coming in the fall. We’ve done some family comedies and other films, but these six we have are all true stories.
CNA: How much was your own baseball expertise relied upon for the film?
CIARDI: I certainly have a say in things but we hire really great people. I look at everybody and chime in but I think it helps to have a background in sports. We had to teach these actors how to pitch, a case of life imitating art. We had to get them to be able to throw and be believable. …