Field of Dreams came out 28 years ago this month. To celebrate the timeless baseball classic, FOX Sports looks at 19 things you might not have known about one of the three greatest sports movies ever made. (Don't @ me.)
The internet is flush with a rumor that Tom Hanks was considered to play Costner's role. It might be true but I've found no primary source to confirm it, so am guessing it's one of those viral things in which the same rumor has been told so much that it gets accepted as fact. (Get on it, Snopes.) Also possible: Dozens of actors are, at one point or another, considered for roles, if only in brainstorming. Was Hanks a serious contender to play Kinsella? It doesn't appear so.
Field of Dreams is based on the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Producers wanted to use the same name for the film but the studio thought people would think it was about a homeless man or hobo. Field of Dreams was chosen instead, which was fine with the author - he'd always wanted his book to be called The Dream Field.
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In the book, the reclusive novelist kidnapped by Ray ("ease his pain") is J.D. Salinger. But Salinger was dropped and replaced with the fictional Terence Mann after after lawyers determined Salinger could sue for being portrayed in a "false light." As Kinsella explains, that would have meant Salinger would have had to go to court - which he wouldn't have done because, you know, dude's a recluse - and state that he wasn't actually a fun-loving guy at heart, as he is revealed to be at the end of the book.
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If you've ever thought about it, chances are that, like me, you always believed Kinsella simply used his own name for the book's character. That's technically true, but there's more to it than that. Salinger had two characters named Kinsella appear in his works. The first was one of Holden Caufield's classmates in The Catcher in the Rye (Richard Kinsella) and the other was Ray Kinsella from a short story published in Mademoiselle. It was Kinsella's intent to have one of those fictional characters knock on Salinger's door and tell him,"I'm one of your fictional creations come to life, here to take you to a baseball game."
Terence Mann, who was played by James Earl Jones, was Salinger-esque but took on more of a "voice of the '60s who got disenchanted in the '70s" role. In the movie, Mann was a civil rights pioneer, a major player in the anti-war movement, hung out with the Beatles and Bob Dylan, marched with Martin Luther King, made the cover of Newsweek, coined the phrase "make love, not war" and threatened to beat Ray with a crowbar. (Totally the most underrated line of the movie, by the way.)
Jones took the role after his wife read the script and was mesmerized by the powerful "people will come, Ray" speech. At the time, though, both joked that the scene would end up getting cut.
Jones has had more sports-based roles in his career than his co-star and supposed king of the genre, Costner.
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It's well known (at least among fans of the film) that a young Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were extras in the Fenway Park scene (when Ray and Terence receive their final clue - the one involving Moonlight Graham). Less known is that Kinsella and his wife were part of the PTA scene at the start of the movie. Like Affleck and Damon, you can't see them in the movie.
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In the end credits, "The Voice," who uttered the famous "if you build it, he will come," line, among others, is mysteriously credited as "himself." Who was it? Kinsella says he heard it was the actor Ed Harris, who was the husband of Amy Madigan, who played Kevin Costner's wife in the film. Other rumors say it was Ray Liotta, who played Shoeless Joe Jackson. Still other rumors claim it was Costner himself. After listening to the voice 50 times, I can confirm that you can legitimately talk yourself into believing it was any of those men (or anyone else, for that matter) but, just based by the ear test, I'd say the odds favor Liotta, Timothy Busfield (the brother-in-law in the film), Costner, in that order. The only thing I can say with confidence: It wasn't James Earl Jones.
Ray Liotta batted right-handed in the movie while the baseball player he depicted batted left. After some talk of flipping the frame (a la Gary Cooper in Pride of the Yankees), producers decided to keep in the historically inaccurate stance. Liotta says that when people come up to him commenting on the "gaffe," he replies, "none of these guys came back from the dead, either.”
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Though Field of Dreams ended up being one of his two most famous roles (Henry Hill in Goodfellas being the other), Liotta says he's never watched the movie. It was filmed around the time his mother was ill and he associates it with that difficult time.
Kinsella found the name of Moonlight Graham in a copy of The Baseball Encyclopedia given to him as a Christmas gift from his father-in-law. Intrigued by the stat line of one game with no plate appearances, the author jotted down a note to include Graham in some future writing. Though the Graham timeline in the film doesn't exactly match with reality, the story itself is 100% legit: A player named Moonlight Graham got in one game for the Giants before moving to Chisholm, MN and becoming a beloved doctor in the town.
Field of Dreams would be the final movie appearance for Burt Lancaster, the Oscar-winning actor who played Graham.
There was a drought in Iowa in the summer of 1988 and the crew had to deal with the problem of tiny crops by irrigating the field at a tremendous cost and then digging trenches for Kevin Costner to walk through so the stalks would be the perfect height. Then, when the crops got too high, a raised platform had to be built for Costner so he could remain at the same level above the corn.
Field of Dreams never hit No. 1 at the box office but finished as the 19th-highest grossing film of 1989. Some films that finished ahead of FOD in its weekend totals: Road House: See No Evil, Hear No Evil; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; No Holds Barred; Ghostbusters 2; Batman; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Dead Poet's Society; Karate KidIII; Lethal Weapon 2 and Weekend at Bernie's. My, what a time to be alive.
Field of Dreams was nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score at the 1990 Academy Awards. It lost the first two to Driving Miss Daisy (oof) and the last to The Little Mermaid (we'll allow it).