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Original Issue

Pitch Meeting

Paul Giamatti, Ethan Hawke play ball

THE PHENOM TELLS the story of Hopper Gibson, a rookie major league pitcher pushed by his abusive ex-con father (Ethan Hawke) and sent to an unorthodox sports therapist (Paul Giamatti) after he chokes on the mound. Ahead of the June 24 opening, the former Oscar nominees talked about acting, sports and LeBron.

SI: Is The Phenom a sports movie?

PG: Yes, it's about baseball, but it could be about a concert pianist or an artist or an actor.

EH: And that's what makes sports so beautiful. It makes us see the possibility for success in ourselves, right?

SI: What was it like growing up with baseball commissioners in your family? (Paul's father, Bart, was the head of MLB; Hawke's grandfather, Howard Green, ran the Longhorn League in Texas.)

EH: When I went to baseball games with my grandfather, everybody knew him. We didn't worry about tickets.

PG: I remember going down to the field with my dad, and everybody had cameras around him and I was like, 'Holy s---, this is wild.' But my dad also was super philosophical about the game, so I got a lot of that from a young age.

SI: You can be a pro athlete. What sport?

PG: Hockey. I could never do it, but I love watching hockey.

EH: I've always dreamed of playing basketball.

SI: What are your fan personalities? Do you root for the underdog?

EH: I have a pathological problem. When LeBron was the favorite, kicking ass at Miami, I rooted against him. Now that he's an underdog, I'm sleepless worrying. I want him to win it.

PG: I used to like the Cubs. I don't like them this year because they're good. Not really, but it's funny watching them rise. I'm a little less interested.

SI: As a performer, do you have a lens into an athlete's life?

PG: Yes, I don't think it's that different.

EH: It's similar, but I find it more relaxing to watch because ...

PG: ... they're so good. I get more nervous watching an actor and thinking he's going to f--- it up.

EH: Why is he blowing this script? What an idiot.

PG: If I'm going to watch LeBron, I know it will be super entertaining.

SI: He might say the same about you guys.

PG: You think he would?! Would you ask him what he thinks of me? I'd like to know what LeBron James thinks of me.


Thursday @ 7 p.m., EDT

NBA draft, ESPN or Chopped, Food Network

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Friday @ 7 p.m., EDT

NHL draft, NBCSN or PBS NewsHour

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Sunday @ 8 p.m., EDT

Copa America final, FS1 or White House Down, FX

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June 28 @ 8 p.m., EDT

College World Series, ESPN or Shark Tank, CNBC

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