25 Fast Facts About Field of Dreams
If you have seen Field of Dreams, you likely have a strong opinion on it. While some are moved by its fantastical and heartfelt story of personal redemption, others dismiss it as maudlin and silly, or a "male weepie at its wussiest," as Richard Corliss of Time Magazine so infamously put it. Either way you look at it, the Oscar-nominated movie—which made its debut on May 5, 1989—is still being talked about more than a quarter-century later.
1. IT WAS BASED ON A BOOK CALLED SHOELESS JOE.
Field of Dreams writer-director Phil Alden Robinson loved W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe since the book was first published in 1982. Robinson continued working on the adapted screenplay, despite 20th Century Fox's repeated insistence through the years that it wasn't commercial enough. Eventually Robinson and producers Lawrence and Charles Gordon sold the screenplay to Universal.
2. ROBINSON WAS UPSET WHEN THE STUDIO MADE HIM CHANGE THE TITLE.
Audiences responded to test screenings of the movie saying the name Shoeless Joe reminded them of a hobo. With trepidation, Robinson called Kinsella to tell him that the movie's name was being changed to Field of Dreams. Kinsella was okay with it, since one of his own ideas for his book title was The Dream Field, only for his publisher to decide on Shoeless Joe.
3. J.D. SALINGER WAS THE AUTHOR RAY TRIES TO KIDNAP IN THE ORIGINAL VERSION.
Kinsella's real original title for the book was The Kidnapping of J.D. Salinger. Studio executives, however, were afraid that bad publicity from Salinger's threats to file a lawsuit would harm them, so the character of Terence Mann was created instead.
4. RAY KINSELLA WAS NAMED AFTER A SALINGER CHARACTER.
Kinsella insists he didn't just put his own last name as Ray's and call it a day. Kinsella was a last name Salinger used in two stories: Richard Kinsella was an annoying classmate of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher In the Rye, and one Ray Kinsella was a character in the short story A Young Girl in 1941 With No Waist at All. The idea was for a Salinger creation to appear in front of his creator and take him to a ballgame.
5. KEVIN COSTNER WASN'T INITIALLY CONSIDERED BECAUSE HE HAD JUST STARRED IN A BASEBALL MOVIE.
Costner was the first actor to come to Robinson's mind to play Ray, but he had just starred in Bull Durham, another baseball movie. A Universal executive got Costner to read the script anyway, and he decided to do it because he felt it would be akin to It's a Wonderful Life.
6. BEN AFFLECK AND MATT DAMON WERE EXTRAS.
Damon was 17 years old and Affleck turned 16 during the summer of 1988, when the film shot on location for the scenes in Fenway Park. More than a decade later Affleck would star in Robinson's The Sum of All Fears; on the first day of shooting, he reportedly told Robinson: "Nice working with you again."
7. THE PERSON WHO VOICED "THE VOICE" THAT SPOKE TO RAY REMAINS A MYSTERY.
For years it was rumored that the voiced belonged to Ray Liotta, who played Shoeless Joe Jackson. Kinsella wrote that he was told it was actually Ed Harris, Amy Madigan's husband (Madigan played Ray's wife, Annie). The Voice is officially credited as being played by Himself.
8. PEOPLE MISQUOTE THE VOICE ALL THE TIME.
9. THE GRASS WAS PAINTED GREEN.
Filmed on an actual cornfield-turned-baseball diamond in Dyersville, Iowa, a season-long drought led to the need for some cosmetic touch-ups. The dying grass was coated with some green vegetable dye and latex turf paint.
10. JAMES EARL JONES WAS CONVINCED HIS "PEOPLE WILL COME" SPEECH WOULDN'T MAKE THE FINAL CUT.
It was Jones' wife who convinced him to accept the role of Terence Mann in the first place, though she warned him that the "long speech about baseball will never be in the film, it'll be on the cutting-room floor."
11. MOONLIGHT GRAHAM IS A REAL PERSON.
Kinsella used Archibald Moonlight Graham's real life story for his book, with the exception that the real Graham's lone major league game took place on June 1905, not on the last day of the 1922 season like Burt Lancaster's character in the film. The author found his name in a baseball encyclopedia he received as a Christmas gift and decided the name was better than anything he could ever come up with on his own. In real life, Graham became the beloved town doctor of Chisholm, Minnesota after answering a newspaper ad.
12. JIMMY STEWART WAS THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY GRAHAM.
Stewart passed on the role. Burt Lancaster himself initially didn't "get it," but was convinced by a friend to do it. In Roger Ebert's four-star review of the movie, he said Field of Dreams was "the kind of movie Frank Capra might have directed and James Stewart might have starred in."
13. IT WAS LANCASTER'S LAST CINEMATIC FILM.
The famous actor was 74 years old during the filming of Field of Dreams. After a couple of TV movie jobs, Lancaster retired from acting. He passed away in 1994.
14. IT WAS GABY HOFFMANN'S FIRST MOVIE.
The daughter of Warhol superstar Viva Auder Hoffmann and soap actor Anthony Herrera played Ray's daughter Karin at age six. More recently, you may have seen her in Transparent or Girls.
15. THE FILMING SCHEDULE WAS BASED ON THE HEIGHT OF THE CORN.
The corn had to be Kevin Costner's height (he's listed as 6'1") or taller when the voice first spoke to him. With a thumbs up from the state of Iowa, filmmakers dammed a nearby creek to make sure the corn had enough water. It worked almost too well; when Costner first hears "If you build it, he will come," he had to walk on a foot-high platform. Just in case the creek damming failed, fake corn from Asia was on standby to be shipped in.
16. THE CORN-BASED SCHEDULE MADE THE POWERS THAT BE FOR ANOTHER COSTNER MOVIE VERY UPSET.
Production on Revenge was repeatedly postponed while Costner and the cast and crew of Field of Dreams were working with the vegetation. A producer threatened to sue the actor, until it was agreed upon that Costner start work on Revenge two days after Field of Dreams wrapped. Revenge would end up making almost $15.7 million at the box office, while Field of Dreams raked in more than $64.4 million.
17. RAY LIOTTA HAS NEVER SEEN THE MOVIE.
He's been told that it's good, but his mother was ill during filming, which he mentally associates with the movie.
18. LIOTTA THOUGHT THE SCRIPT WAS "SILLY."
It was only after the actor read the script a couple more times and read the book Shoeless Joe that it made more sense to him.
19. LIOTTA COULDN'T HIT LEFT-HANDED WELL ENOUGH FOR THE MOVIE.
Shoeless Joe Jackson hit lefty and threw righty, but in the movie Liotta plays him as a right-handed batter. Liotta trained with professional baseball coaches for one month to hit left-handed like his character, but it wasn't good enough for the director Robinson. Liotta claimed Robinson said it was okay if the batting wasn't historically accurate, though to this day the actor regrets not finding a way to make it work.
20. KINSELLA WAS BORED WATCHING THE MOVIE OF HIS BOOK GETTING MADE.
"Colossal boredom" was how Kinsella described Iowa in the summer of 1988. The author said his daughter had more fun, because she was involved in "a little romance" with Liotta.
21. KINSELLA GAVE THE MOVIE FOUR OUT OF FIVE STARS.
It lost a potentially perfect rating because Kinsella didn't think Timothy Busfield's Mark was villainous enough, nor that Gaby Hoffmann looked like Ray and Annie's child.
22. A TOWN-WIDE BLACKOUT WAS ENFORCED IN ORDER TO MAKE THE FINAL SCENE WORK.
3,000 Iowa residents in 1,500 cars agreed to take part. There was a forced blackout in the town of Dyersville, Iowa, which included other baseball games and the local train. The director's instructions were broadcast on a local radio station. One was for the drivers to flash their high beams off and on as they drove to make it look as if there was more movement than there actually was.
23. RAY'S DAD WAS WORRIED HE WOULD DROP THE BASEBALL DURING THE GAME OF CATCH.
The scene in which Ray plays catch with his father had to be shot during magic hour, 15 minutes after sunset, which gave little room for error for actor Dwier Brown, who was working with a rock-hard, vintage catcher's mitt. He is proud of the fact that he never dropped it.
24. DWIER BROWN SHOT THE FILM RIGHT AFTER HIS OWN FATHER'S FUNERAL.
He got back in time to play catch with Costner. It helped him access the necessary emotions.