22 Things You Might Not Have Realised About Field Of Dreams
“If you build it, he will come,” is what a voice tells an Iowa corn farmer in the classic 1989 movie Field of Dreams, prompting the man to build a baseball field right in the middle of his farm.
We’re sure you’ll agree that Field of Dreams is one of the most heartwarming movies ever created, so we thought it was about time that we paid tribute to it with the following fascinating facts.
22. It’s based on a true story about Shoeless Joe Jackson
The Field of Dreams movie is based on the 1982 novel Shoeless Joe by Canadian author WP Kinsella, which was itself based on a true story (that of Chicago White Sox outfielder ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson, who died in 1951).
The movie adaptation almost took the name of the book, and the real-life figure played in the film by Ray Liotta. However, test audiences were not fans of Shoeless Joe as a title, claiming it sounded like a movie about a ‘hobo’.
Universal called director Phil Alden Robinson to inform him that ‘Shoeless Joe’ just wasn’t going to make the cut. Instead, the studio decided upon the rather catchy ‘Field of Dreams’ for the movie’s title, much to Robinson’s dismay.
When the director informed the author of the original book, he expected Kinsella to be similarly disappointed – but got a surprise. Kinsella explained to Robinson that Field of Dreams was in fact closer to the book’s original title, ‘Dream Field’.
The real outfielder Joseph Jefferson Jackson earned his nickname ‘shoeless’ from a mill game early in his baseball career, where he slipped off his trainers because of severe blisters – to the great amusement of onlooking hecklers.
An exceptionally talented player, he was banned from Major League Baseball in 1920 after getting caught up in the Black Sox game fixing scandal – though many continue to proclaim Jones’ innocence. In the Field of Dreams movie, Jackson appears to Ray Kinsella in several visions.
21. Terence Mann wasn’t a real person – but he was based on one
Terence Mann – the reclusive author played in Field of Dreams by James Earl Jones – is not only an invention, the character doesn’t even appear in WP Kinsella’s original novel. In Shoeless Joe, a fictionalised version of real-life author JD Salinger is the reclusive writer who Ray contacts.
When it came time to adapt Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe for the screen, however, the producers of Field of Dreams elected to completely avoid any reference to Salinger, for fear of a lawsuit. They came up with the entirely fictional Terence Mann instead.
Salinger, who most famously wrote 1951’s Catcher in the Rye, was a reclusive figure for much of his life up until his death in 2010 aged 91.
As such, Shoeless Joe author WP Kinsella never met Salinger, and invented the Salinger character in his novel from whole cloth. Salinger, predictably, was not impressed.
In a 2010 interview, WP Kinsella explained that Salinger objected to his appearance in Kinsella’s story: “[Salinger’s] lawyers wrote my publisher’s lawyers saying he was outraged and offended to be portrayed in the novel and they would be very unhappy if it were transferred to other media.”
20. Yes, Moonlight Graham was a real person
Moonlight Graham, played in Field of Dreams by Frank Whaley and Burt Lancaster, was based on real baseball player Archibald ‘Moonlight’ Graham, who had the biggest game of his career in 1905. He was a medical student at the University of Maryland when he played his one and only major league game.
Graham, born in 1876, was one of ten siblings from Fayetteville in North Carolina.
He was a right fielder for the New York Giants on 29th June 1905, and he played against the Brooklyn Superbas at Washington Park.
Graham is portrayed by two actors in Field of Dreams: Burt Lancaster plays the older Graham, and Frank Whaley plays Graham as a young man.
However, there’s one minor difference between the real-life Graham and the movie Graham that only a baseball superfan might spot.
In the iconic film, the elder Moonlight Graham bats with his right hand – but the real-life legend was actually left-handed.
19. Kevin Costner called the film his generation’s It’s A Wonderful Life
Producers did not originally consider Kevin Costner for the part of Ray Kinsella, believing that he wouldn’t sign up to another baseball-themed movie so soon after Bull Durham.
But Costner loved the script and was keen to be part of the project, believing that it could be “this generation’s It’s a Wonderful Life.” He wasn’t far wrong!
However, there was another, more selfless reason that Costner, who was 33 when the film was made and just beginning his career as a superstar, was eager to be involved.
Robinson’s directorial debut, In The Mood (1987), had been a commercial flop, much to his despair.
Luckily, Costner offered to help director Robinson with the production, signing up and ensuring the film would be a box office sensation.
18. Ray Liotta was cast because he had ‘a sense of danger’
Shoeless Joe Jackson was originally envisioned as being played by an actor who was older than Kevin Costner.
Director Phil Robinson thought an actor in their late 40s would be perfect for the role, acting as a surrogate father figure to Costner’s character.
However, despite Ray Liotta not being the right age, Robinson eventually decided that he would excel as Joe Jackson.
He believed that future Goodfellas actor Liotta had the “sense of danger” and ambiguity that was required for the role.
We agree Robinson’s casting skills were on point, as we just can’t imagine the Jackson being played by anyone else!
17. The identity of the actor who plays ‘the voice’ has never been revealed
One of the greatest movies of the 20th century, there’s still one element surrounding Field of Dreams that has remained a mystery.
The identity of the actor who plays ‘The Voice’ that speaks to Kevin Costner’s Ray Kinsella throughout the movie has never been revealed.
Many people believe that the voice is Kevin Costner himself, or perhaps of Ray Liotta, who plays Joe Jackson.
However, the book’s author W.P. Kinsella claimed that he was told the voice belongs to actor Ed Harris, who is the husband of Amy Madigan, the actress who played Annie Kinsella in the movie.
Unluckily for us, it doesn’t look like the true identity of ‘The Voice’ will be revealed any time soon, with Robinson saying “we’ll let that remain a secret”.
16. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck both appear in the movie
The eagle-eyed viewers among you may have spotted a certain friendly acting duo in Field of Dreams, appearing many years before they made a name for themselves in Hollywood.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are both in the movie, as extras in the Fenway Park scene, appearing when they were just teenagers.
They are amongst thousands of spectators in the crowd scene, and are as a result uncredited in the drama.
Over a decade later, once his star had substantially risen, Affleck had the opportunity to work with Robinson again on 2002’s The Sum of All Fears.
Robinson was confused when Affleck told him it was nice to work with him again, until Affleck explained the connection.
15. It contains one of the most misquoted lines of all time
If we asked you to recite a classic line from Field of Dreams, we suspect that a good proportion of you would say “if you build it, they will come.”
But you’d be incorrect, because the line, which is one of the most misquoted of all time, is actually “if you build it, he will come.”
The line is one of the most memorable, and was voted as number 39 in a list of the best movie quotes by the American Film Institute.
However, its misuse has not gone unnoticed, and it has become infamous in its inaccuracy.
In fact, it was actually crowned one of the Daily Telegraph’s most misquoted film phrases in 2014.
14. It was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture
Field of Dreams was nominated for three Academy Awards, although sadly it didn’t win any of them.
It was nominated for Best Original Score for James Horner’s majestic soundtrack, as well as for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
It was also the only Best Picture Oscar nominee in the year of its release not to win any Academy Awards.
It received rave reviews, with Roger Ebert saying ‘this is the kind of movie Frank Capra might have directed, and James Stewart might have starred in – a movie about dreams.’
Audiences were similarly enamoured, with the film currently sitting pretty with an 86% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
13. Ray Liotta has never seen the movie
Field of Dreams is quite literally the movie of… well, dreams. Still, it seems not everyone has seen the classic film, including some of those who star in it.
Despite playing a major part in what is now considered one of the greatest movies of the 1980s, Ray Liotta has never seen the finished product.
It’s not because Liotta has any qualms with the movie itself, but rather because his mum was seriously ill whilst he was filming it.
This means that it serves as a negative reminder of a difficult time in his life.
Sadly, Liotta’s mother would pass away just a year later, during the filming of Goodfellas (1990). Liotta has yet to sit down and watch one of his most notable films.
12. The baseball field was a tourist destination for many years
The real-life location of the movie’s baseball field was a tourist destination for many years, with around 65,000 visitors every single year.
The field was built specifically for production, and the production crew left behind the baseball diamond after filming ended.
The field was built across two farms, although the majority of the field fell on the Lansing family’s property.
After filming, the family kept their portion of the movie intact and added a small hut which served as a gift shop.
In 2011, the farm containing the field was sold for an undisclosed amount, which was estimated to be around $5.5 million.
11. There will be a real-life Field of Dreams Baseball game in 2020
Not just one of the great sports movies, Field of Dreams also features one of the most iconic baseball games of all time.
However, it seems quite a waste that the field has gone unused for decades, used only as a tourist attraction.
Still, it seems luck is on our side, as there has been a recent announcement which is quite literally a dream come true.
The MLB recently announced the first Field of Dreams game, between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees, will take place in August 2020.
Unable to play on the movie’s original site, a field will instead be constructed next to the original, with a path connecting them.
10. Ray Liotta had never played baseball prior to signing up to the film
Despite his serious moves, you might be surprised to learn that Ray ‘Shoeless Joe Jackson’ Liotta had never actually played baseball prior to filming Field of Dreams.
You can see in the film there are some discrepancies between the way Liotta’s character plays and how the real Joe Jackson played.
One of these was that Liotta batted right-handed, whilst Jackson was actually left-handed in real life.
Robinson allowed Liotta to bat with his right hand, but still wanted to make sure his actor’s moves were as convincing as possible.
To give Liotta a helping hand, Robinson put his actor through several weeks of extensive training with University of Southern California baseball coach, and former Brooklyn Dodger, Rod Dedeaux.
9. The director had nightmares about fans of the book coming after him with knives
As mere spectators, even we can assume that producing and directing a film must be pretty strenuous work.
And like in most jobs, if you work too hard, you might just burn out far too quickly.
This was certainly the case for Field of Dreams and director Robinson who, at some point during the principle photography, began to doubt his ability to tell the story effectively.
Robinson’s fears ran so deep that he began to dream about the film, envisioning angry fans of the book coming after him with knives.
Luckily producer Larry Gordon saved the day, telling Robinson his script was great, and that he just needed to trust it and shoot what he had written.
8. The field itself didn’t grow on time because of a drought
The filming of Field of Dreams naturally depended on there being an abundance of tall crops, but things unfortunately didn’t go exactly to plan.
When shooting was set to begin on the film, a drought hit Iowa, leaving the crops grown for the film stunted.
With just three weeks to go, the production company spent $25,000 to truck in water from the Mississippi River in order to aid the plants’ growth.
As a further backup, the production designer ordered 50,000 silk corn stalks from South Korea.
Luckily, the water did the trick, and the silk stalks weren’t actually ever used.
7. The studio didn’t like the music at first
Prior to hiring a composer, Robinson decided to try his hand at creating a temporary soundtrack for Field of Dreams.
However, his efforts were not appreciated by studio executives, who disliked the track.
When the announcement of James Horner’s involvement in producing the soundtrack was made, the executives were relieved.
They felt positive as they were expecting a full orchestral score, similar to Horner’s work for An American Tail (1986).
However, Horner actually liked the subtlety and ghostly quality of the temporary score, and so decided to aim for similar qualities when creating his own new score.
6. The crew had to paint the grass green
Thousands of pallets of green grass were ordered to produce Field of Dreams’ baseball field, and this required a lot of upkeep.
Due to the haste in planting because of the filming schedule, the grass did not grow as expected and died before filming could take place.
In order to keep up appearances, the crew painted each individual blade of grass green.
The sod on the field itself also struggled to maintain its lustrous green appearance, dying quickly in the drought.
The groundskeeper suggested the crew paint this grass green as well, resulting in a flawless green field.
5. Robinson regretted not casting any African-American actors as baseball players
Since the film’s release, Robinson has revealed his biggest regret over the film.
This was that no African-American actors were used in the roles of baseball players.
However, it could be argued that to do so would have meant the film was historically inaccurate since no African-American players played Major League baseball between 1884 and 1947.
Of course, the main point of this would have been to highlight the plight that African-American players faced.
Although Joe was banned from baseball, most African-American players never got a chance, simply due to their race.
4. Jackson and Cobbs were good friends in real life
In the movie, Joe Jackson and Ty Cobbs did not on, with Jackson referring to Cobbs thusly: ‘none of us could stand the son of a b***h when he was alive’.
However, in real life, the pair were actually close friends.
Later on in Jackson’s life, the ex-White Sox player ran a liquor store in South Carolina.
One time, Cobbs stopped by the store to buy bourbon, and instantly recognised his old friend, saying ‘for God’s sake Joe, don’t you remember me?’.
‘Well, sure, I remember you, Ty,’ was Jackson’s sombre reply. ‘I just didn’t think anyone wanted to remember me anymore’.
3. The scene where Liotta hits a line-drive straight back at Kevin Costner actually happened
We’ve already mentioned how Liotta was not a natural sportsman, and how he went through rigorous training in order to perfect the sport prior to making the film.
Eventually, the actor developed a good swing, and was able to convincingly portray a skilled baseball player.
One scene from the film is hard to forget: when Liotta hits a line-drive straight back at Kevin Costner.
But this was not the result of CGI or a stuntman. In fact, the move was actually performed by the actor himself.
Costner then fell on the mound, and although it was a surprise, he managed to stay in character.
2. The film caused the public to demand Joe Jackson be reinstated
Field of Dreams was released just eight months after Eight Men Out (1988).
This movie portrayed the 1919 White Sox and World Series scandal.
Both Eight Men Out and Field of Dreams generated awareness of the team’s plight, resulting in many members of the public becoming sympathetic to the difficulties they endured.
Public sentiment soon began to grow in favour of seeing Joe Jackson’s lifetime ban from Major League Baseball being overturned.
However, after a review it was deemed that there were insufficient grounds for the verdict to be reconsidered.
1. The final scene took a lot of coordination
The final scene of the film is the one in which we see a seemingly endless horizon of cars, with only their lights visible in the darkness.
Robinson first broached the idea of this scene with the Iowa Chamber of Commerce, who readily agreed.
The scene soon became a community event, with members of the public involved, acting as extras driving the cars.
The film crew hid on the farm to avoid detection from the overhead cameras, and the town was blackened out to make the headlights appear more prominent.
In order to create the illusion of movement, the extras in the cars were ordered to flash their headlights continuously.