A Q&A with Jay Mohr on the 20th anniversary of Jerry Maguire
Cameron Crowe’s tale of an agent who grows a conscience is being re-released on Blue Ray (Jan. 3, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) with extras to commemorate its 20th anniversary. The film gave us “Show me the money” and the movie debut of Jay Mohr, who played “oily” rival rep Bob Sugar. When Mohr took some time to look back, he had us at “Hey, how’s it going?”
You’ve done lots of sports stuff over the years, written an SI.com column, and hosted an ESPN show and a Fox radio show, what’s the connection?
It’s what I talk about anyway. I’m always talking sports and I realized there’s a social currency to that. If I was on a plane and ended up sitting next to some guy in a Bears shirt, I’d say, Hey, how about those Bears and we’d talk. I needed that social currency and realized there was some actual currency there. Not a lot of show biz people are willing to go on ESPN in the middle of the afternoon and get a .4 rating to talk sports, but I was and that got me some opportunities so why not?
Favorite sports movie?
Raging Bull. Although, is Caddyshack a sports movie? A real sports movie would almost have to be a documentary. Although now it sounds like I’m giving you a hard time. The simple answer is Raging Bull, followed closely by the Natural.
What’s your sports history?
I played baseball and I wrestled. I had the first varsity pin in Verona High history. In my first match I pinned some kid named Rodney, and they wrote in the paper that I got Verona’s first varsity pin. That was cool, but then I got pinned in like my next nine matches.
Football is my favorite sport to watch. I’m a Jets fan, so I’m able to look at the game objectively because they’re never in it. I learn about the game by watching other teams.
Golf. I have no idea how or why. Why can I take a fastball that you’re trying to make me think is a curveball and hit it on purpose to the opposite field, but I can’t hit a golf ball that’s sitting still on a tee. I don’t get it.
For you Jerry Maguire was followed by a lead role in Picture Perfect, so which was more satisfying, firing Tom Cruise or kissing Jennifer Aniston?
Without question firing Tom Cruise. There were a few weeks of overlap in filming, and I was going back and forth between the two. On Jerry Maguire the crew was so awesome and everyone was so nice, and it was my first movie, so I didn’t realize how rare that was, but everyone was great. On the other set, not so much. It was way more stressful. Plus, Tom Cruise is hotter.
By the way they both still have the same haircuts, Tom and Jen.
What about Tom Cruise. What was he like?
Everybody always asks—and when I say always I’m rounding up—was Tom crazy or did he try to recruit you to Scientology? All I can say is he was the nicest, most present human being I’d ever met. When I auditioned with him, he was this stranger but without him even saying a word it was clear he was there with you and rooting for you. And not phony. He was like a college coach that changes your life.
Cameron Crowe said he got the name Bob Sugar from Ron Woods of the Rolling Stones, although Crowe later realized Woods was saying Brown Sugar. Did you know that story?
I first auditioned to be Kush, the quarterback [played by Jerry O’Connell] and I was atrocious. My mother is originally from Texas and I still have a lot of family in the Permian Valley so I know the accent cold, but when I went in to read, I butchered it. So [producer] Jim Brooks says why don’t you read for the nanny.
It was that scene where you think he’s gonna give Jerry a condom but instead he pulls out a jazz CD. Well I’m a huge jazz guy and I knew that CD, Myles Davis and John Coltrane, Stockholm 1963, so that was real easy for me and I memorized it quickly and nailed it. And they were like “perfect do it exactly like that.” Well of course when you’ve sort of done it spontaneously and they say do it again, now you start thinking about it and trying to figure out what you did. Suddenly every word weighs 1,000 pounds, and you can’t repeat it. So when I did it again, I remember, it was weird, everyone was standing, leaning on stuff, no one was sitting, but when I was done there was this long silence, and Jim Brooks said. “What about Sugar?”
So they gave me a whole weekend get ready and that was strange too. I only owned one suit, and I had long hair. But when the audition came we did the firing scene, and Tom, he knew the whole script and he’s a really awesome actor, and he was just bringing it. And it was one of those moments where, you realize how good the other person is and you can return serve or just go home, so you swing your racket. And we got to the point where Sugar says, “You brought this on yourself, Jerry.” And Tom and I are staring at each other, and I’m letting the moment hang, letting the tension build. But at the same time, in the room you can feel this awkwardness, people are wondering if you forgot the line, so you’re like an acrobat, doing this little dance between waiting to let the moment work but not waiting so long that someone yells out your line. Finally I said the line and you could feel the whole room change, they realized I knew it all along and I was acting.
In the script Cameron used one word to describe Sugar, unctuous. So I looked it up and it’s the only word you can look and still not really know what it means. Oily, what? So this guy is oily? But I thought it was interesting that he used such a specific word.
Did you know the character was based on Drew Rosenhaus?
I did and Cameron sent me a video of Drew. I watched it but I didn’t want to do an impression of him. I thought Sugar was more interesting, more layered. Funny story, I was doing stand-up at the University of Miami and Drew and his brother came to the show and he was wearing a bright orange vest with “agent” in big letters across the back. I guess he didn’t want anyone to say they didn’t realize who he was and commit some sort of violation.
How would Bob Sugar advise Colin Kaepernick?
I love what you’re doing because everyone knows who you are and what you’re about, but you’re one TD pass behind Russell Wilson, so this week you’re gonna stand-up and hold up your numbers, because he’s a $100 million man.