It’s been more than a quarter century since Field of Dreams’ iconic Iowa location was chosen after Sue Riedel, a state film scout, found the farm that would be transformed into a field for the ghosts of Chicago Black Sox players. The movie became not just one of the greatest baseball movies to ever pay tribute to America’s pastime, but tapped into the universal emotion of a desire to reconnect with lost loved ones.
To celebrate the film’s place in sports and movie culture on its 25th anniversary, I’ve lined up some facts about how it was made and what’s become of the field since.
1. Kevin Costner wasn’t the studio’s initial choice for Ray Kinsella. Tom Hanks was offered the role, but decided to pass. Producers didn’t initially approach Kevin Costner about the film because they thought he wouldn’t be interested in another baseball movie, having just finished Bull Durham.
2. The film’s original title Shoeless Joe reminded test audiences of a hobo. Audiences during the test screening said they weren’t fans of the name Shoeless Joe because it reminded them of a hobo, and of course, Universal took great concern with this. The studio told director/writer Phil Alden Robinson that they were changing the title to Field of Dreams. Author W.P. Kinsella was completely okay with the title as his original book title was Dream Field, but his publishing company had changed it to Shoeless Joe.
3. The field of dreams baseball diamond stuck around after filming. The land where the baseball field was built is on a farm in Dyersville, Iowa. After shooting wrapped, the farm’s owners decided to hang on to it as a tourist attraction, building a small souvenir stand and inviting visitors to come and play ball as they pleased. The field remained open under the Lansing family until 2010, when the the family put the farm’s 193 acres up for sale.
4. Shooting the film was more depressing than enjoyable for director Phil Alden Robinson. Even though Robinson was already an accomplished director with hits like Fletch and All of Me under his belt, shooting FOD brought on a bout of anxiety and depression. The crew was under a tight shooting schedule because Kevin Costner had to leave in August to film Revenge and Robinson began to doubt that his film would live up to the book’s expectations. Producer Lawrence Gordon had to convince him that the movie would come together well in the end.
5. Parts of the field had painted grass. While constructing the baseball field, the crew brought in hundreds of pallets of sod, but due to the haste of the shooting schedule the grass didn’t have time to appropriately take root and some of it died. To make up for this, the crew painted over the dead pallets of grass.
6. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were extras in the movie. When Ben Affleck started working on The Sum of All Fears he said to director Phil Alden Robinson, “nice working with you again.” When Robinson asked Affleck what he meant by the compliment, Affleck explained that he and Matt Damon were among the thousands of extras in Field of Dreams’ Fenway Park scene.
7. Author W.P. Kinsella didn’t give his movie a perfect review. It’s not uncommon for authors to take criticism with the film adaptations of their work and Kinsella was no different. When asked to write a review of the movie for a Canadian periodical he gave it 4 out of 5 stars, taking issue that the character of Mark wasn’t villainous enough and thinking that Gaby Hoffman didn’t look believable as the child of Ray and Annie.
8. J.D. Salinger wasn’t a fan of his fictional version. When W.P. Kinsella’s novel “Shoeless Joe” was published, writer J.D. Salinger was rather unhappy with the fictional portrayal of himself in the book and threatened legal action if the book was ever transferred to film. To work around this possible problem the studio created the character of Terrence Mann as a replacement for Salinger.
9. “If you build it…” is one of the most misquoted movie quotes. Perhaps more often than not, people misquote the movie’s famous line as “If you build it, THEY will come.” It at least gets botched enough to land it as one of the most misquoted lines on numerous lists, but at the same time is cited at #39 in AFI’s “100 Best Movie Quotes.”
10. The community of Dyersville participated in a blackout for the film. During a lunch with the the Iowa Chamber of Commerce, Robinson described his idea of the final scene with headlights stretching out on the horizon. The Chamber agreed that it could be done and Dyersville was blacked out as part of a community event with commuters driving into the field and switching between high beams and low beams to create the illusion of movement.
11. The corn stalks were too tall for Kevin Costner. During filming of the movie, Iowa was in the middle of a drought and the corn fields had to be constantly watered to ensure the corn would grow tall enough for the ball players to disappear into. The corn grew too fast though and in some scenes Costner had to walk on an elevated plank so that the corn would appear just above his shoulders.
12. The movie was a grand slam at the box office. FOD was a cash cow for Universal Pictures who opened the movie in select theaters a week before Memorial Day, before expanding it nationwide as a summer blockbuster. The movie garnered praise from most critics and scored big with audiences, pulling in $84 million and the box office and playing in many theaters until December of 1989.