A-Ron’s Film Rewind Goes Back In Time For The 35th Anniversary Of Kevin Costner’s “Field Of Dreams”. A Film That Is Both A Gem and A Home Run, Which I Rank As The Second Best Baseball Film Ever!
Actor, director, producer and musician Kevin Costner is one of those rare actors who is right there on the same level as Paul Newman or Robert Redford. Like acting legends Newman and Redford, Costner’s career has had memorable films that have stood the test of time. Films that are distinctly his such as: “Bull Durham”, “Waterworld”, “The Bodyguard”, “JFK” and “Dances With Wolves”. No film in Costner’s career is more recognized than his Baseball classic “Field Of Dreams”. After 35 years it’s still pure cinematic magic.
“Field Of Dreams” is that rare magical film that only comes around so often. When “Field Of Dreams” opened April 21, 1989. The film was gradually released to more screens so it would have a spot among the summer blockbusters. It ended up being so popular and in-demand that theaters ran the film until December 1989. “Field Of Dreams” was that pure magical experience, offering a rare glimpse at the grandeur of Middle America. It grossed $85 million (but was deemed a box office hit), off a $15 million budget. When adjusted for inflation $89 million in 1989 would now be equal to $185 million in today’s market.
Over it’s 35 years “Field Of Dreams” has touched many people in the same way as Frank Capra’s Depression era fables, they bring nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent time. It’s a mystical fantasy about having belief and hope in life. “Field of Dreams” is a meditation on how to regain your passion for life. Director and screenwriter of “Field Of Dreams”, Phil Alden Robinson (“Sneakers” and “The Sum Of All Fears”) manages to evoke an old-fashioned style of filmmaking, giving us a throwback to movies of the yesteryear.
If you can imagine you’re a struggling Iowa corn farmer and while tending to your crop, you hear a voice, coming from the tall green stalks surrounding you, repeatedly whispering the same mysterious words in your ear: “If you build it, he will come.” Your first question would undoubtedly be: Build what? Then you’d wonder: Who’s “he”? In one of Kevin Costner’s best and most beloved films, the “it” the voice is referring to is…well we all know what it is, even if you never seen the film, you know that it’s a baseball field. What we don’t know, is the person “that will come” once he builds it. The building of the field and who it is made for is not made quite clear throughout the movie. Phil Alden Robinson sensibly never tries to make the slightest explanation for the strange events that happen.
For those who don’t remember, in “Field of Dreams,” Costner plays Ray Kinsella, a farmer with a cute little daughter (Gaby Hoffmann in her first on-screen role) and a supportive wife, Annie, (Amy Madigan) who decides to follow the voice’s instructions and build a baseball diamond right in the middle of his cornfield, complete with baselines, a backstop, bleachers and even a few light towers. With the field in place, Ray and his family wait…and wait…and wait for something to happen. Meanwhile, the bills start piling up as half of their cash crop no longer exists. The tensions mount and soon Annie begins to question her husband’s sanity until Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), a Chicago White Sox outfielder from the early 1900s, shows up in the center of Ray’s beautiful diamond ready to fly a few balls. Convinced he must continue following the mysterious voice’s instructions, Ray sets off on a cross-country journey, where he meets writer Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) and Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster) along the way.
The film is based on W.P. Kinsella’s novel titled “Shoeless Joe”. In fact after the movie was completed, test audiences didn’t like the name of the film: “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, because they described that it sounded like a movie about a bum or hobo. Universal Pictures who distributed the film called Director and Screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson to tell him that “Shoeless Joe” didn’t work, and the studio had changed the title of the film to “Field of Dreams”. When Robinson heard the news of the change, he called W.P. Kinsella, the author of the book, and told him the “bad” news, but apparently Kinsella didn’t care, saying that “Shoeless Joe” was the title the publishing company had given the book. While Kinsella’s original title was “Dream Field”.
The studio had built the baseball diamond on an actual farm in Dyersville, Iowa. You can actually enter the coordinates into Google Maps, which is: 42°29’51.8″N 91°03’18.4″W, you can actually see the location of the field built for the film. It is labeled as “Field Of Dreams” movie site and the road has been named “Field Of Dreams” way. The site has become a regular tourist attraction and the family owning the farm who kept the field, added a small hut where you could buy inexpensive souvenirs. As of 2018, visitors were free to come to the field and play baseball as they please between the months of April and November. During filming when they were building the field, thousands of pallets of green grass were brought in to make the baseball field. Due to the haste in planting because of the shooting schedule, the grass was not able to grow appropriately and died. In order to keep the grass green, the production crew had to paint the grass.
During the scenes where thousands of people started coming to the field. Thousands of extras had to be called in and then unknown, actor, director and screenwriters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were among the thousands of extras uncredited in the scene. Over a decade later, when Phil Alden Robinson welcomed Affleck to the set of the Jack Ryan thriller “The Sum of All Fears” in 2002, Affleck said, “Nice working with you again”. As Robinson asked, “What do you mean ‘again’?” and Affleck explained the connection.
As for the main cast of actors Phil Alden Robinson and the producers did not originally consider Kevin Costner for the part of Ray, because they didn’t think that he would want to follow “Bull Durham” from the year before with another baseball movie. Costner did end up reading the script, and became interested in the project, stating that he felt the movie would be “this generation’s It’s a Wonderful Life”. Since Robinson’s directorial debut “In the Mood” from 1987 had been a commercial failure, Costner also said that he would help Robinson get his name out there and help with the production. Actors Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Christopher Lambert, Michael Nouri, Gary Oldman, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis were candidates on the list to play Ray Kinsella.
For the role of Annie Kinsella played by Amy Madigan. Original candidates were: Karen Allen, Kim Basinger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geena Davis, Jodie Foster, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Demi Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Molly Ringwald, Rene Russo, Susan Sarandon, Ally Sheedy, Madeleine Stowe, Emma Thompson and Sigourney Weaver. “Field Of Dreams” was the last appearance of legendary actor Burt Lancaster (“From Here To Eternity”). He was seventy-four at the time.
But James Earl Jones delivers possibly the most memorable performance as his monologue on baseball’s place in American history will send chills down the back of any true enthusiast. Truly one of the best written film monologues in any film. It’s not easy to act in a movie like this; where the danger of seeming ridiculous or cheesy can come across easily. Both Costner and Madigan create such a grounded, believable married couple that one of the themes of the movie is the way love means sharing your loved one’s dreams. As for Jones and Lancaster they create small, sharp character portraits of two older men who have taken the paths life offered them, but has never forgotten what baseball represented to them within their youth.
For every baseball fan, “Field of Dreams” is unquestionably a must see as Costner, Jones and director Phil Alden Robinson treat America’s favorite past time, with the kind of respect and awe we all can appreciate. The film is loaded with fascinating baseball history and fantastic interpretations of the game’s rich past. Costner like all of his films brings his A-game and is excellent as Ray. His reconciliation scene with his dead father is profoundly moving and Costner hits a home run within that scene alone. You won’t find a better film to show your children, on how important you as parents will seem to them as they grow older.
The movie’s line “If you build it, he will come.” was voted as the #39 movie quote by the American Film Institute Top 100 Movie Quotes. “Field of Dreams” was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Robinson’s adapted screenplay, and James Horners original score. It lost the Best Picture to “Driving Miss Daisy”, which also won the Oscar for Alfred Uhrys screenplay. The score award went to Alan Menken for “The Little Mermaid”. In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
For the casual or non-baseball fan, “Field of Dreams” still delivers the kind of story that’ll keep you entertained while also giving you an appreciation for the game. Sure it oozes sentimental but it does it charmingly so. After 35 years it’s still quite simply one of the best sports movies ever made and a film of pure magic.
•”Field Of Dreams” Will Screen At All Regal Theaters As Part Of Their Fathom Events On:
June 16 @ 1pm and June 18 @ 4 and 7pm