The script was great from the beginning. Brian Helgeland’s a great writer in general, but he is a master of adaptation and I think a lot of the time people don’t even realise we’ve made a Biopic.
It’s even harder than if it were adapting a novel or if it was a fictionalised story - it’s someone's life. You’re picking the right moments and trying to sew them together to try and have dramatic action.
This process was actually one of the most unusual experiences I’ve had auditioning, because when I went in there was no-one else there.
I never saw anyone else sitting outside waiting or competing. The first audition was an hour long, whereas most are around five, ten or fifteen minutes.
We read for 15 minutes and then we talked for 45 minutes about why we wanted to do the film.
So I went back to New York, and while I was there, I wasn’t even thinking about it. You don’t want to focus on that too much.
But I was watching the World Series in a bar in New York and for some reason I was watching the celebration at the end of the game and it just came to me that I was gonna get the role.
I turned to my friends and I said, ‘I think I’m gonna get this movie. I’m about to play Jackie Robinson’ and we toasted it.
The training period was about four and a half months of baseball practice.
We started out doing five days a week, but it became too much and Brian (Helgeleand) said to me that I will need time to study the role too and do some research.
But it was basically two days doing baseball practice, conditioning and study.
Our body sizes weren’t that different, but our general body types are quite different. So it was a big task trying to find the best way for me to replicate his movements. I would slow down and do slow motion of him swinging and then of me swinging and then speed it up.
Then we'd split screen that so I could watch and study it. It was a pretty in-depth process in regards to the physicality of impersonating him.
The first day we shot the scene at the hotel in Philadelphia (a scene in which he isn't let in due to racism), was a great scene because it gave the character a sense of the team and also what the tension of the movie really was, and by how it started off.
Additionally, the other players started going to baseball practice too, so we had built a camaraderie amongst each other.
When we filmed that scene though, we had to establish a certain way that there was tension amongst us, and I think that scene helped to do it
They actually put us in different hotel rooms and hotels. So that also helped create distance - I was never with any of the other teammates in the hotel during filming.
42 is in cinemas now.