The Sandlot (known in some countries as The Sandlot Kids) is a light-hearted film that follows a group of young boys as they play baseball and go on a number of fun adventures.
If you fancy watching something that will warm your heart then The Sandlot is a perfect choice, and below are some home run-hitting facts about this under-appreciated coming-of-age film.
It took two dogs and a giant puppet to create the character of Beast
Few movie dogs are quite as imposing as Hercules, otherwise known as The Sandlot’s Beast. This huge pooch starts off as the gang’s biggest adversary, though by the end he becomes their biggest ally. He was literally big: as it took two giant English mastiffs to take turns playing the role, and they were chosen to look both as terrifying and as lovable as possible.
As if hiring two giant doggy actors wasn’t enough, in some scenes The Beast was instead played by an enormous puppet. This puppet stood taller than the child actors, and was so big that two people had to team up to correctly operate it.
The child actors all fell in love with Marley Shelton (aka Wendy the lifeguard)
It’s not unusual for co-stars to take a fancy to one another whilst making movies together. This problem gets even worse with child actors or actors in their pre-teens, who sometimes can’t help but develop crushes on the older actors on set; famously, both Daniel Radcliffe and Tom Felton were infatuated with their far older Harry Potter series co-star Helena Bonham Carter.
On the set of The Sandlot, meanwhile, the gang of child actors predictably all fell in love with Marley Shelton, the actor behind beautiful lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn. Just as their characters found themselves nervous and flustered around Wendy, the child actors found themselves equally unable to stop being awkward around Shelton.
Filming conditions were either freezing cold or so hot the actors would faint
The small number of filming days on The Sandlot meant that not a minute could be wasted, and the crew kept shooting pretty much no matter what. This meant continuing to film through extreme temperatures, whether they were scathingly hot or freezing cold. At one point during filming, the temperature reached a sweltering 105 degrees, causing Tom Guiry (who played Scotty Smalls) to overheat so much that he fainted on a cameraman.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the temperature of the swimming pool was far too cold at around 56 degrees. If you look closely during the pool scenes you can actually see actor Chauncey Leopardi’s teeth chattering, despite the fact that the gang are supposedly enjoying a summery dip.
The ‘vomit’ was made of pea soup and oatmeal
One scene sees our young heroes go on a variety of fairground rides, including some spinning teacups, to pass the time. The combination of the rides and the tobacco does exactly what you might expect, and the gang throw up all over themselves and each other. The vomit looks extra gross thanks to its tobacco-brown colour, and the combination of ingredients the crew used to create it doesn’t make it any less disgusting.
The fake sick is actually a gross, gloopy mixture of pea soup, oatmeal and baked beans – with a lot of brown food colouring thrown in. That’s how the production team achieved such a horribly realistic lumpy texture, and it probably smelled close to the real thing on set too.
The producers were sued for ‘shame and humiliation’ by a childhood friend of the film’s director
Six years after the film’s release, 20th Century Fox and its producers were sued by Michael Polydoros, a childhood friend of the film’s writer and director David Mickey Evans. Polydoros claimed that the film’s character Michael ‘Squints’ Palledorous was based on him, since he also wore glasses as a child.
Rather than being flattered by or even indifferent about a character in a film being inspired by him, he claimed the knowledge was causing him a great deal of ‘shame and humiliation’. The court dismissed his claim, but he maintained that he wasn’t happy with the character, and was deeply affected by it.
The actors had to be covered in dog food to make Beast lick them
The Beast starts out as a terrifying neighbourhood legend, who steals the baseballs of every group of kids and strikes fear into their hearts. He’s so huge that it seems pretty likely that he could devour the gang whole if he wanted to, and no chain seems to be able to hold him. By the end of the movie though, The Beast has become a trusted ally, who leads them to his stash of stolen baseballs.
In order to film the scenes where the dog was acting friendly, the cast were required to get pretty gross. For example, their faces were smeared with dog food, in order to make it look like the dog was licking them to say thank you.
None of the settings seen in the movie are real (not even the tree)
The Sandlot is set in San Fernando Valley, and watching it, it really does feel like it’s taking place in a genuine neighbourhood. With that said, most of what you see on screen is entirely built from scratch, as most of the movie was shot on sets, rather than on location. Everything from the houses and backyards to the Sandlot itself were constructed on a soundstage, and despite feeling that they’re actually part of a much bigger world.
Only the giant iconic tree is real, and even that was dead by the time it was put to film. In a bizarre twist, it was decided that a giant tree should be dug up and brought to the set, and stuck into the ground with concrete. The reasoning was that building a whole fake tree would be too expensive, and likewise, growing one would be too complicated.
It was originally titled The Boys of Summer
It’s difficult to imagine The Sandlot going by any other name, except for maybe The Sandlot Kids since that’s what it was called in some countries. However, it was actually supposed to be released under another name entirely, and that name was The Boys of Summer. The name was abandoned when the filmmakers realised that there was a famous book with the same title, which was also about baseball.
As if that wasn’t enough of a coincidence, Don Henley also released a song called Boys Of Summer, which was widely covered and immensely popular. The Sandlot ended up being a much better choice, as it had no other connotations and yet still got across the theme of baseball very well.
The young cast snuck into a screening of Basic Instinct during filming
During production, the young cast were reported to have snuck into a cinema screening of Basic Instinct. This kid-unfriendly thriller was of course rated R in the US, so it was certainly not suitable for a group of unaccompanied 12-year-old boys!
It’s hard to confirm or deny these reports, since pretending to sneak into an adult movie and bragging about it is also something a group of preteen boys would do. With that said, given the amount of mischief those working on set seemed to think they were capable of, it wouldn’t be surprising if they did actually see the film.
The famous insults scene was mostly unscripted
The scene where two of the characters trade insults such as “butt-sniffer,” “fart-smeller,” “you mix your Wheaties with your mama’s toe jam” and “you bob for apples in the toilet and you like it?”, was actually almost entirely unscripted.
Apparently writer-director David Mickey Evans was feeding the lines to actor Patrick Renna whilst the cameras were rolling, and they were somehow able to make it seem like the insults were off the cuff.
The movie was shot in just 43 days
Movies often take months to shoot, but the timeframe for The Sandlot was a little different. The cast and crew were only given 43 days to shot the film from beginning to end. That’s around the same amount of time as the average American kid’s summer vacation, which could explain the limits on how long they had to shoot.
This tight timeframe meant they had to shoot whatever the weather, which had some pretty dramatic consequences as we’ll explore later on. However, the child cast did later say that shooting the film felt like the best summer vacation of their lives, so obviously the quick turnaround didn’t affect them too much.
Critics were completely split on the movie
For many kids who grew up in a certain era, The Sandlot was the kind of movie that could be watched over and over. Many critics were also fond of the movie’s sweet message, exciting sequences and realistic gang of friends. Legendary critic Roger Ebert gave the movie a high score, and even compared it to the beloved A Christmas Story.
Others were less sure, with one reviewer at The New York Times appearing to really dislike the movie. Janet Maslin complained that the film was directed and written as if it contained super important events, when the events it actually followed were completely inconsequential.
Several of the cast also appeared in The Mighty Ducks
The genre of uplifting sports movies is pretty huge, even if you limit yourself just to films with a cast of preteens who aren’t yet professional players. Therefore, it’s not surprising that several young actors in the 90s ended up being in more than one of these kinds of movies. Several members of the cast of The Sandlot also appeared in another popular sports film, Disney’s D2: The Mighty Ducks.
In particular, the film starred both Brandon Adams and Mike Vitar, who played Kenny and Benny The Jet respectively. Adams’ plays Jesse Hall, the streetwise former member of the Ducks who wears the number #9. Mike Vitar plays Luis Mendoza, a speedy skater who literally doesn’t know how to stop, who wears the number #22.
One dialogue exchange was lifted word-for-word from Cool Hand Luke
The Sandlot includes a homage to another famous film, but the movie it pays tribute to is surprisingly not a sports movie. Instead, The Sandlot includes a reference to Cool Hand Luke, a prison drama about a particular inmate who refuses to play by the rules. The reference takes the form of a single dialogue scene, which parodies a similar scene in Cool Hand Luke.
The dialogue comes during in a scene where the boys are watching Wendy apply sunscreen at the pool. One of the boys says to the other “She don’t know what she’s doing.” The other one replies: “Yes she does, she knows exactly what she’s doing.” This is an exact copy of an exchange in Cool Hand Luke, about one of the few women in the movie, Lucille.
The film made around $76 million from VHS and DVD sales alone
The Sandlot was a success at the box office, making over $34 million from a budget of just $7 million, and it also went on to become something of a cult classic. The film made an estimated $76 million from VHS and DVD sales alone, far surpassing the take from its original cinema run. Like many other films released around the same time, it became a hit through home release and rentals.
Kids would borrow the film and take it home to watch on Saturday mornings or at sleepovers, which led to it becoming a firm favourite. It soon became the kind of movie that many kids would watch over and over at home, until they could recite every line. This popularity with home release was also part of the reason that the sequels were greenlit, as producers knew there was a fanbase out there who would buy the DVD.
There were two direct-to-video sequels
The Sandlot’s success meant that it (eventually) spawned two direct-to-video sequels, the first of which was The Sandlot 2 in 2005. The Sandlot: Heading Home followed two years later in 2007, and starred Luke Perry as a man who gets transported from 2005 back to 1976 to relive his childhood. The Sandlot 2 introduced the idea of rival girls who want to share the sandlot, who turn out to be absolutely amazing baseball players in their own right.
It also repeated the idea of a terrifying dog who lives behind the wall that separates the sandlot from Mr. Mertle’s house, although they call the dog The Great Fear. The Sandlot: Heading Home had a much better reception from critics, probably because two characters from the original film returned. Not only that, but one actor even returned to reprise their role, making it feel even more like a proper sequel.
Both a prequel film and a Disney+ TV series are in the works
In 2018 it was announced that a prequel film to The Sandlot was in the works at 20th Century Fox, which will be co-written by the original film’s writer and director David Mickey Evans alongside Austin Reynolds. And that’s not all, because Evans is also said to be directing a Disney+ TV series that will be set in the 1980s and will see the original cast returning as adults.
The Disney+ series will follow the original cast as adults, as well as their children who are having their own adventures in the sandlot. As for the prequel film, it was announced in 2018 and still has no title or cast, so it’s unclear when we will see it in cinemas.
Despite appearing in two classic baseball movies, James Earl Jones doesn’t actually like the sport
Four years before he took the role of Mr. Mertle in The Sandlot, legendary actor James Earl Jones appeared in another much-loved movie in which baseball plays a key role: 1989 fantasy drama Field of Dreams, in which Jones appeared as fictitious author Terence Mann alongside leading man Kevin Costner. It would be fitting, then, if the actor was himself fond of the great American sport – yet this is not the case.
Jones has admitted he has never been interested in baseball. The actor remarked in a 2014 interview, “I didn’t play baseball [growing up]. We didn’t have a team at our high school. But it was a curiosity.”
The cast reunited at Dodger Stadium in 2018
All these years after it first hit screens, The Sandlot is still well-loved, particularly on its home soil of the US – and particularly amongst fans of baseball. It was fitting, then, that the film’s 25th anniversary in 2018 was commemorated with a cast reunion at one of the most famous baseball grounds of them all, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
To make it a special occasion, the actors were all given personalised Dodgers jerseys with the names of their respective characters stitched on the back. The setting was especially fitting, as the end of The Sandlot reveals that Mike Vitar’s Benny grows up to be a Dodgers player.