Say it ain’t so: Field of Dreams writer-director Phil Alden Robinson hated the film’s title and thought it sounded like an air freshener. He’d adapted W. P. Kinsella‘s novel Shoeless Joe and didn’t want to change its name, but studio execs said audiences would think it was about a hobo. Phil sheepishly broke the news to W. P., who revealed he’d wanted to call the book Dream Field but his publisher forced him to switch it to Shoeless Joe.
That kind of fortuitous coincidence seems fitting for Field of Dreams, the fantastic tale of an Iowa farmer (Kevin Costner) who hears a voice telling him to build a baseball diamond on his property. The titular playground attracts throngs of fans and resurrects the spirits of deceased baseballers, including Costner’s dad (Dwier Brown), with whom he shares an emotional game of catch. “I’ve been traveling to ballparks all across America and shaking hands with, crying and hugging strangers because this movie was so powerful and meaningful to them,” says Dwier, who will appear at a screening and game on the farm where it was shot in Dyersville, Iowa, on June 15, the film’s 30th anniversary. Fathom Events and TCM will also show the movie in theaters around the country June 16 and 18.
Filming Field of Dreams during the summer of 1988 wasn’t all fun and games. “It was 100 degrees every day — it was brutal,” Timothy Busfield, who played Kevin’s skeptical brother-in-law, exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “There was a drought, and it was so much work to get the corn to grow.”
The filmmakers dammed a creek and “got the corn to grow because they trucked in water,” Frank Whaley, who costarred as player Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, tells Closer. “I think it pissed off a lot of the other farmers, but that’s what they had to do.”
For the older version of Moonlight, Phil wanted to cast James Stewart, but he turned the role down. So instead it went to Burt Lancaster. “He was an enormous movie star and had been an athlete in his youth,” Phil explains. But Burt was uncomfortable shooting scenes in the heat while wearing a wool suit, and perhaps not coincidentally, he retired from acting afterward.
With its Frank Capra–esque sense of whimsical optimism, Field of Dreams became “our generation’s It’s a Wonderful Life,” says Kevin. It earned Oscar nods for best picture, adapted screenplay and score (as James Horner’s music hit the perfect note). “Movies aren’t intellectual — they’re emotional,” Kevin says. “And this one rang a bell.”
Three decades later, it has lost none of its power. “The movie will hold up as long as baseball is with us,” says James Earl Jones, who costarred as a reclusive, J.D. Salinger– like author swept up in Kevin’s quest.
Among many men, Field of Dreams stands as one of their favorite films for very personal reasons. “Everybody has a dad, and you either had a great relationship with him or you didn’t,” says Dwier, whose own father passed away a month before he shot the movie. “All of us would love to have a magical place where you could meet your parents as young people and play catch with them and say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I love you’ — all the things we don’t say enough because we think they’ll be around forever.” And that’s why Field of Dreams will last forever.
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