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Diamonds Are Forever : Director Fields the Lost Hopes of Adolescence

April 21, 1989|NINA J. EASTON | Times Staff Writer

If early reviews are any indication of audience reaction, "Field of Dreams" is likely to polarize audiences. Syndicated film critic Roger Ebert calls the movie "completely original and visionary." But Time magazine's Richard Corliss sees it as a "male weepie at its wussiest."

Robinson first tried to launch the project in 1982 after Kinsella's book was published, but he couldn't generate much interest.

"The general response was, 'We can see why you love this book but you can't make a movie out of it,' " he recalls.

The "Shoeless Joe" project first wound up at Fox, but that studio ultimately decided not to make it. Together with the brother producer team of Lawrence and Charles Gordon, Robinson took his screenplay to Universal. As they were closing the deal, Universal motion picture group chairman Thomas Pollock joked, "This was the kind of movie that you only make if you hear a voice telling you to."

Robinson responded, "If you make it, they will come."

Costner was the first actor to come to mind for the lead, says Robinson, but he and the producers were so sure he wouldn't be interested in doing another baseball movie after "Bull Durham" that they didn't even add his name to their list. A Universal executive, however, made sure the script got in Costner's hands, and he came to them.

"It was a great, great screenplay," Costner recalls. "I saw and believed in the fantasy of this movie."

Costner said he "wasn't at all worried about" appearing in another film about baseball. But he admits that among his advisers "there was some concern about it."

Costner promised to back up Robinson if the studio began tinkering with the film's fantasy elements and dialogue. But they never came to blows with Universal--until the studio, concerned about the bleak fate of past baseball movies at the box office, changed its title to "Field of Dreams."

"I loved the title 'Shoeless Joe'; It's a title for a movie about dreams deferred," Robinson says, recalling the lost dreams of the innocent Shoeless Joe at the hands of baseball's corrupt owners.

Robinson fought and fought, but Universal wouldn't budge on the title change. Finally, the day came when the director had to break the bad news to the book's Canadian author, Kinsella. Robinsons recalls that he felt sick as he dialed the phone.

But Kinsella took the news in good humor: "Shoeless Joe" had been the publisher's idea for a title, Kinsella told Robinson. They thought it would sell better.

Kinsella had always wanted to call his book "The Dream Field."

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