Molly Bloom on her skiing career and the poker ring that inspired the film 'Molly's Game'
Molly Bloom told her story because she had to pay her debts.
The former elite skier, who retired after a devastating wipeout left her injured, had no money to her name and was in debt up to her ears. She did, however, have a priceless story. So she wrote a book about her experiences.
Once she left the slopes, the athlete went on to help organize high-stakes poker games for over a decade, hosting clientele like Hollywood stars Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. Many of the games reportedly had buy-ins at $250,000 and beyond. Bloom went into debt while bankrolling the games and extending credit. She then got hooked on drugs and alcohol as a means to deal with the stress of it all.
After publishing her book in 2014, Bloom spent the next two years trying to broker a meeting with Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, in hopes of convincing him to write a screenplay for a film adaptation of her book.
She wanted Sorkin because he's proven to be "bankable," having written the screenplays for 2010 release "The Social Network" and NBC's former prime-time juggernaut "The West Wing." Also, as Bloom explained in a phone interview, she didn't want the story to feel one-dimensional. She had spoken with other filmmakers, but "they didn't see beyond the glitz and the glam."
Sorkin signed on to do the film, and Jessica Chastain took on the lead role as Molly. The film would go on to chronicle Bloom's journey from pro skier to poker broker and beyond (the notable actors mentioned above are not referenced in the movie). And the film, which released in late December, ending up being a success, with Sorkin receiving an Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay.
Bloom, 39, was excited, as you might expect.
"This isn't just a movie or a book for me," she said. "It's given me a viable second chance. It's an incredible moment."
In many ways, "Molly's Game" is a sports movie. Bloom's history as an athlete anchors her psyche throughout the film. That's another example of how close Sorkin stuck to the source material Bloom gave him.
"Because of athletics, I got real comfortable with risk at a young age," Bloom said. "I made choices that I may not have made otherwise. In sports, especially skiing, you have to be comfortable with risk. You have to have a relationship with fear, and it can't dominate the decision-making process."
The movie explores a story that feels too incredible to be true. A former skier moves to Los Angeles to figure her life out as she prepares to apply to Harvard law school. Then, in a twist of events, she winds up running poker games instead, never goes to law school, gets beat up by the mob and interrogated by FBI.
It sounds completely dramatized, but according to Bloom, it's mostly factual. Bloom contends that Sorkin "inflated the hell out of my LSAT score," and that the stunt skier in the film could "kick my ass into Sunday." Sorkin also took a lot of creative license with the role of criminal attorney Charlie Jaffey, played by Idris Elba.
"But the rest of it's true," she said. "I created a lot of drama and mess in my life."
Bloom was sentenced in 2014 to 200 hours of community service for being a player in an illegal gambling ring. She managed to escape jail time but returned to a life in shambles. She has since been steadily getting her life in order. Bloom went on to complete her community service and successfully battle her addiction.
"In the past, I have always come at success in a dysfunctional manner," Bloom said.
Then she went to work with Sorkin on making the "Molly's Game" film a reality. She spent months with Sorkin, serving as the primary source of research for the film. Five days per week, she sat in Sorkin's office answering questions from his team, and then was sent home with writing assignments. They even made Venn diagrams of Bloom's criminal empire.
"It was intense," Bloom said. "I should probably pay him for therapy."
Years after the conclusion of her athletic career, it was sports that helped Bloom put her life back together. She applied the mental strength and discipline she'd developed from recovering from an injury to sobriety and improving her life.
"I approach everything, including sobriety with the same mentality I approached sports with," Bloom said. "You're going to put in the time. You've got to suit up, show up and keep your eyes on the win."