Barry Levinson on The Natural: Redford actually hit a couple out of the park

ln the final edition of Costas at the Movies, director Barry Levinson talks about The Natural (Monday, 8 p.m. ET, MLB Network).

More sound bites from Levinson:

On the film’s climactic scene with Roy Hobbs hitting a home run into the light tower:

What’s interesting about that, it was a point where I felt like if you could have a mutiny, this would have been it. Because every night at the end of the night, we’d have Redford heading to first base and then we would blow up a light stand with all the fireworks. Then, we’d round second and we’d blow it up…Night after night after night, we would end with that and the crew has gotta be going, “What in the world are we doing?”…To put it together was a really complicated sequence to do, but I always remembered I would see the faces of our crew going, “What is he doing?”

On the fantasy aspect of The Natural:

Through the years, these things which are outlandish actually [happen]…like Kirk Gibson hitting the home run and limping around the bases. If you put that in a movie, you’d say, “Well, that would be outrageous.”…Curt Schilling with the blood on the sock in the World Series…and Hobbs had the blood on his shirt, the opening of the wound…These things, in one way or another, [are] the amazing aspect of what baseball is…That’s what’s so amazing. It’s what makes the game extraordinary. As simple as it is in a certain way, there are these amazing things that happen that are beyond credibility and, yet, that’s the game. That’s what makes, I think, The Natural exciting, is these circumstances that are larger-than-life, and it’s great fun.

On the film’s iconic song by Randy Newman:

We were racing to try to get this movie out in time and we were in one room and then there was a wall and Randy’s in the other room. One of the great thrilling moments is I heard him figuring out that theme…You could hear it through the wall as he was working out that theme and I’ll never forget that.

On the possibility of casting a real Major Leaguer in the role of The Whammer:

I think I met with, I believe it was, Harmon Killebrew. I might’ve met Boog Powell, I can’t remember…That was part of the issue, too. Well then, this is going to throw us off [because] this is a [big] name person.

On being the play-by-play announcer in the background of the movie:

I did all the announcing because I laid it down as a temp track and we didn’t have a chance to really finish it, so I never got a real announcer. So every time I hear it, it drives me crazy.

On whether people still talk to him about The Natural:

It comes up. It’s amazing. It’s one of the things about movies, which you don’t know. Sometimes you do a movie and it can make money and people [don’t] really talk about it. Sometimes you do a film and it’s like it goes from generation to generation, so I still hear about it all the time, actually in some ways even more so than when it first came out.

On Robert Redford’s talent as a baseball player:

He was pretty good. He was a big fan of Ted Williams. That’s why he wore [the number] nine. He did it quite well. The hardest thing to do, I’ll never forget, is there is a time when he strikes out. He kept fouling the ball off and kept fouling the ball off. I said, “Bob, you just to have to strike out here.”…He actually hit a couple out of the ballpark.

On Robert Duvall:

He’s so talented. One of the great things when you work with really talented people is that you can make suggestions…because they have the ability to do that. Some actors, they really, this is all they can do. With Duvall, there’s all kinds of moves that you can do, that you can play with. Sometimes, you want to explore it and see which way to handle it and try it. It’s like somebody who’s great at an instrument, but they can do it half-a-dozen different ways, and he’s one of [those] great actors.

On the distribution of the film being held back by TriStar Pictures:

Here’s something that we sort of forget. The Natural was going to be the first release of TriStar Pictures, which was going to be a new entity in the business, and we were going to be the first movie. They got cold feet, thinking that The Natural wouldn’t work and ended up putting out Where the Boys Are ’84 as their first [distributed] film.

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