How Kevin Costner Found Heaven on a Baseball Field in Iowa

“If you build it, he will come.” This is one of the most memorable phrases in movie history. Ray Kinsella was just an average guy before spirits started speaking to him, telling him to build a baseball field at his home in Iowa.

Kevin Costner / James Earl Jones / Kevin Costner, Amy Magigan and Gaby Hoffmann / Ray Liotta and Kevin Costner
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This movie stands for so much more than just baseball. It tells a tale of persistence, passion, and love for the game. Kevin Costner plays Ray Kinsella, just another guy who was tending to his corn fields before hearing a message from beyond: If you build it, he will come.

A Recognizable Title

Field of Dreams is a timeless classic that will make anyone wonder if they have some higher calling. More than 25 years after the film’s release, this Oscar-nominated movie gave athletic dreamers a sense of magic. If you heard voices commanding you to do something, what would you do?

Kevin Costner is holding Gaby Hoffmann in a scene from the film 'Field Of Dreams', 1989.
Photo by Universal/Getty Images

The film centers around a man who is basically directed by a higher power to build a baseball field in a corn field. Many see the film as a story of redemption and passion for the game, others find it cheesy. Others see it as men being emotional — but, seriously, that’s totally fine!

It Was Based on a Book

When an Iowa baseball announcer uttered the phrase “if you build it, he will come,” a small-town local was inspired to build a baseball field. He carved it out of his local cornfields to honor his favorite baseball legend, Shoeless Joe Jackson. Some people will go to great lengths to honor their heroes!

Joe Jackson when he played for the Cleveland Indians.
Photo by Sporting News/Getty Image

This novel takes readers on a journey of connecting with passions. It takes a look back at the enchanting national pastime. The story about fathers and sons, family ties, and finding your way back to your roots is truly heartwarming. Baseball is a sport that runs deep through family lines!

Adapting to Film

When the book was first published back in 1982, the writer and director of the soon-to-be movie was instantly hooked. Phil Alden Robinson loved W.P. Kinsella’s novel right away and began working on an adapted screenplay. He worked against the forces that told him his project just would not work.

Amy Madigan, Director, Phil Alden Robinson Kevin Costner, and Charles Gordon at the DVD Launch party of
Photo by Chris Polk/FilmMagic/Getty Images

20th Century Fox expressed concerns that the book did not have enough potential to be commercialized. After tons of hard work, Robinson, along with producers Lawrence and Charles Gordon, was able to sell the screenplay to Universal. Eventually, the name of the project would change, but not before opinions were expressed by viewers of screen tests.

The Working Title

We are very pleased that producers finally ended on the title Field of Dreams. In screen tests for the film, viewers expressed that they felt the name “Shoeless Joe” was misleading and sounded like it was about a homeless person. Luckily, they knew what to do and changed the name.

Kevin Costner, as Ray Kinsella, holds a baseball as he stands in the middle of the field.
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The team behind the film was able to get in touch with the author, W.P. Kinsella, to get the rights to name the film something that seemed a bit more appropriate. The author initially wanted to call his novel The Dream Field, but his publisher had the final say and decided on the title Shoeless Joe.

Different Title

The original version of the book was actually entitled The Kidnapping of J.D. Salinger. If you do not already know this name, J.D. Salinger is a well-established writer and the author of The Catcher in the Rye. There was a different issue that came up, unfortunately. Using someone’s name came with obstacles, even if he was well known.

A portrait of J.D. Salinger.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

J.D. Salinger had threats to file a lawsuit against the studio. There seemed to be a lot of that from the world-renowned author at the time. Everything in Hollywood revolves around publicity, so anything that could tarnish a reputation had to be tossed out. The character Terrance Mann was created in the film as a result.

Naming Kinsella

The author of the original novel was Kinsella. His main character’s last name mirrored his own. You might think it was just a creative blunder, but it was so much more than that! The author swears he didn’t just put his own name, but that it was the last name used by an author he admired.

W.P. Kinsella sits on his couch at home.
Photo by Reg Innell/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Salinger used the name Kinsella in multiple stories. Richard Kinsella was the name of an annoying classmate of the main character in The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield. Salinger used the name Ray Kinsella in another one of his short stories, A Young Girl in 1941 With No Waist at All.

Almost Missed It

The iconic Kevin Costner almost did not get to play his part in the film. The director instantly thought of Costner and wanted him to play Ray, but the production team had a problem. Costner had recently starred in another baseball film, so there was a chance he could not be involved in this project.

Kevin Costner, as Crash Davis, in a promotional photo for the film Bull Durham.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com / Orion Pictures

Costner had recently starred in Bull Durham, another baseball film. After some pestering, a Universal executive got the actor to read the script anyway. Costner ultimately decided to do the film because he felt it would be similar to another iconic film, It’s a Wonderful Life. He’s likely proud to have been in this sensation!

Extra, Extra

It seems that some of the biggest stars in Hollywood got their start as an extra. Any scene that has even the slightest connection to Boston has two actors that instantly come to mind: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. This dynamic duo landed roles as extras in Field of Dreams when the film shot on location at Fenway Park.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in a scene from Silent Bob.
Source: Pinterest

Damon was 17 and Affleck turned 16 in the summer of 1988 when the film was shot on location. These Boston natives took advantage of their interest in the film industry and appeared as extras at the famed baseball stadium. More than ten years later, Affleck would star in another of Robinson’s films, The Sum of All Fears.

The Voice

When you look at the cast of the movie, there is one character that cannot quite be named. Much of the movie revolves around a narrator’s voice, known as “the voice” throughout the story. The voice utters a simple phrase over and over again: “If you build it, he will come.”

Kevin Costner stands in the cornfield as he hears The Voice talking to him.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com / Copyright: Universal Pictures

Hearing “the voice” will send chills up and down your spine. Seriously, now we understand why Costner’s character nearly lost all his marbles when he first heard it. When he shouted across the corn field to find out if the others heard it too, he knew the answer he was getting. To this day, the person who voiced “the voice” remains anonymous. There is speculation, but the film credits “the voice” as being played by “himself.”

Say It Right

Everyone and their mother misquotes their favorite lines from films. The famous quote that so many see as religiously rooted is actually a famous repeated line from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” The line covers us in goosebumps. Unfortunately, it seems that many often misquote the line!

Baseball players are disappearing into the cornfield in a scene from Field of Dreams.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com / Copyright: Universal Pictures

Most folks quote the line incorrectly. Instead of saying, “if you build it, he will come,” many say, “if you build it, they will come.” That line is not correct and the line itself was ranked number 39 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time.

The Reason Why the Grass Is Greener

Residents of the midwestern United States are already very familiar with crazy changes in weather patterns. This was the case so much that the cast and crew filming in Iowa for Field of Dreams had to deal with the extreme changes in weather, including a month-long drought when they were in production.

Baseball players play on the field at night in a scene from Field of Dreams.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com / Copyright: Universal Pictures

The crew did not get the amount of rain they needed. The movie was filmed on an actual cornfield-turned-baseball diamond in Dyersville, Iowa. They dealt with a drought that lasted an entire season, and the field was in desperate need of touch-ups to look more visually appealing. The grass was dying, so it was coated with some green vegetable dye and latex turf paint. Yes, you read that right — the grass was painted!

Have Some Confidence

It must be hard for an actor to go into a project and feel like something is not going to work out for them. James Earl Jones was convinced that an iconic scene from the film wouldn’t end up making the final cut — and was almost swayed away from taking the role in the first place.

James Earl Jones is smiling in a still from the movie.
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It was James Earl Jones’ wife who convinced him to take the part to begin with. He was convinced his speech about baseball, “people will come,” would be cut from the movie. In fact, his wife even told him not to get his hopes up about that scene remaining in the movie.

Moonlight Graham

Kinsella used someone’s real life story for his book. That person was Archibald Moonlight Graham, who briefly found fame in the world of baseball. His lone major league game was back in 1905, whereas the movie depicted his only game being at the end of the 1922 season.

Archibald Moonlight Graham’s baseball card.
Photo by MARLIN LEVISON/Star Tribune/Getty Images

The author found Archibald Moonlight Graham’s name in an encyclopedia about baseball that he got for Christmas one year. He decided that nothing else would be as good as that name, so he snatched it up and decided to use it in his story. In real life, Graham became the town doctor in Chisholm, Minnesota.

The First Choice

Did you know that Jimmy Stewart was the first choice to play Graham but passed on the role? Maybe he felt that it was beneath him, or maybe he just was not a fan of the game of baseball. Either way, he missed out on the story of a lifetime and probably regretted turning it down.

A portrait of James Stewart.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Initially Burt Lancaster didn’t quite understand the role that he was offered, this same role, but a friend convinced him to do it. Roger Ebert gave the movie a four-star review, and referred to it as “the kind of movie Frank Capra might have directed, and James Stewart might have starred in.”

Saying Goodbye to Lancaster

Burt Lancaster had a full 45 years in the entertainment industry. For a while, he was known for his roles playing a tough guy, but he somehow always ended up in roles that showed he had a tender heart. He was known for being tough but sensitive.

Burt Lancaster, as Doc Graham, in a still from Field of Dreams.
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Field of Dreams was his last project. Rather, it was his last film bound for theaters before his passing. He was 74 years old when filming Field of Dreams and only did a couple of more TV movie jobs before retiring. He passed away in 1994 from a stroke and will be missed forever.

Gabby’s New Beginnings

Gabby Hoffman played Karin, Ray’s daughter, when she was only six years old. Not a bad way to start your career, right? She stole our hearts on screen and established herself for a lengthy and accomplished career in the world of entertainment. She was adorable, almost too adorable to handle!

Gaby Hoffmann on the set of Field of Dreams.
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She is the daughter of Warhol superstar Viva Auder Hoffman and soap opera star Anthony Herrera. That could definitely have helped her get her first job, don’t you think? These days, you might have seen her in shows like Transparent or Girls. She’s got some awesome acting skills!

Corn Season

There is one thing that I know about the state of Iowa: It is filled with corn fields. Corn fields are frequently pictured throughout the movie. I mean, the baseball field at the center of the story is built in a corn field!

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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The movie actually had to be filmed around the height of the corn fields. Kevin Costner is listed at 6’1” and the corn had to be his height or taller when he would first hear the voice. The filmmakers went to some extreme heights (get it?) to make sure that it would go according to plan…

Building the Dam

The filmmakers worked with the state of Iowa to get special permission to build a dam at a nearby creek. They needed to make sure that the corn was getting enough water. I’ve never heard of a movie working with state officials to improve vegetation like that!

Costner walks through the cornfield.
Source: Pinterest

The damming at the creek worked a little too well, you might say; not only did the corn grow, but it grew to be so tall that Kevin Costner needed to walk on a platform that was a foot high. In case the damming of the creek were to fail, they had ordered corn from Asia to be on standby.

Raincheck

No one wants to postpone their plans for anyone, for anything. No one likes to postpone their trips, their limited time off, or anything that brings them joy. You also don’t want to postpone lifesaving medical care, but that’s a whole different story… now, back to the point.

Costner sits on the bleachers looking off to the distance.
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Kevin Costner was in demand, building his career and making everyone fall in love with both his acting skills and his looks. While filming Field of Dreams, his plans were already in motion for the next project he was doing. He had his next job lined up and they were ready for him. Turns out, vegetation takes time!

Causing Delays

Anyway, Kevin Costner’s next project after Field of Dreams was a movie called Revenge. This film was repeatedly postponed, mostly because they had to keep postponing the schedule for filming Field of Dreams because of the need for accurate corn heights.

Kevin Costner and Madeleine Stowe on the set of Revenge.
Photo by Columbia Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Having to wait infuriated some of the folks over at Revenge. A producer even threatened to sue Kevin Costner over it! Fortunately, they came to an agreement that Costner would start work on Revenge just two days after Field of Dreams wrapped up on set.

Don’t Push It

Costner was right to not give up on Field of Dreams to go film his next project. Revenge didn’t do nearly as well in the theaters as Field of Dreams did. In fact, Field of Dreams made more than four times the amount Costner’s other movie did.

Kevin Costner in a scene from the film 'Revenge'.
Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

Field of Dreams raked in more than $64.4 million. That is a lot of cheddar, and even though it isn’t the most a movie has ever made, that’s still a pretty good chunk of change! Revenge only raked in about $15.7 million at the box office, which can’t even compete with Field of Dreams!

Ray Liotta’s Struggle While Filming

Ray Liotta’s mother was very ill while he was filming field of dreams. It isn’t clear what she was sick with or the outcome of the situation, but he admitted that he’s never seen the movie because he associated the filming with a difficult time in his life.

Costner and Liotta, as Ray and Joe, talk on the baseball field in a scene from the movie.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com / Copyright: Universal Pictures

Even if he were struggling with something so personal, his acting skills were great because viewers really couldn’t tell. I feel like that is very telling about how great an actor is when you just see their performance and not the emotions of the problems they are dealing with behind the scenes.

Ray Saw It as Silly

Ray Liotta’s first impression of the script for Field of Dreams? “That’s so silly.” It took him some convincing, some dedicated reading of the script, and a good read of the book Shoeless Joe, but he eventually got really into it. Some projects just need another look to see it from a different point of view.

A portrait of Ray Liotta.
Photo by Eric Robert/Sygma/Getty Images

We’re happy to see that Ray Liotta overcame his issues and gave us a performance of a lifetime. I mean, Ray Liotta is Shoeless Joe himself — he held himself so well and you probably wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t told you!

Lefty

Ray Liotta’s character, Shoeless Joe Jackson, was supposed to be able to hit left-handed. Shoeless Joe Jackson hit lefty, threw righty. In the movie, this small detail had to change because they couldn’t get Liotta to hit lefty well enough for their standards!

Liotta gets ready to pitch in a still from Field of Dreams.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com / Copyright: Universal Pictures

Liotta worked with professional coaches for more than a month to get his skills up to director Robinson’s liking. Liotta tried his hardest, but it seemed that wasn’t good enough for him! Liotta claimed Robinson said it was OK if it wasn’t historically accurate, but that doesn’t seem right.

Ray Liotta Appreciation Post

Liotta regrets not trying harder to be a good lefty hitter. He should feel a lot better, though — he’s done a hell of a job in this movie. We know he loved being involved in this film because in his guest appearance on Modern Family, he made a point of mentioning his role!

Ray Liotta is taking a selfie with cast members of the show Modern Family.
Source: Pinterest

No, he didn’t win any major awards for this film; he didn’t get nominated for an Academy Award and he certainly didn’t get nominated for much else, but he did get nominated for a Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Foreign Language Film.

He Was Bored in Filming

Ray Kinsella was actually bored when he was watching the movie version of his book be made! Seriously, he wasn’t subtle about it either. He referred to it in the funniest way; he described it as a “colossal boredom,” like an Iowa summer.

Behind the scenes on the set of Field of Dreams.
Source: Reddit

Kinsella said that not everything about it was boring; his daughter was in “a little romance” with Ray Liotta. That’s a good dad! Seeing the value in his daughter’s happiness even if it meant he was bored? Sounds like dad of the year to me!

Four Stars

Kinsella didn’t even give the movie a full five stars! Crazy, right? He could have given it a five-star rating, but he didn’t believe that Timothy Busfield’s character, Mark, was enough of a villain. Maybe he thought that Busfield’s face wasn’t “evil” enough.

Costner, Madigan, and Hoffmann pose together as a family in a still from Field of Dreams.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com / Copyright: Universal Pictures

He also didn’t think that Gabby Hoffman looked enough like Kevin Costner’s child. Or rather, that she didn’t look enough like a mix of Kevin Costner and his movie wife, Amy Madigan, who plays Annie. This movie was so great even if they didn’t get five stars from the author!

The Big Blackout

What do you think it would take to make any small town go completely dark? I spent some time in an incredibly small and isolated town, and there were streetlights and things that made everything just a little brighter for my sanity’s sake.

An areal view of the blackout with only the light at the baseball field visiable.
Source: Twitter

In order to make the final scene of the movie work, there was a town-wide blackout that was strictly enforced! All 3,000 Iowa residents with 1,500 cars in this town, Dyersville, Iowa, agreed to this enforced blackout of the city.

Making It Happen

The enforced blackout affected the entire town of Dyersville, including their local train and a number of baseball games going on as they normally would. Everyone in the town had to take directions from the director, given over the radio. That is a lot of communication.

Cars are seen arriving at the field at night in the last scene of the movie.
Source: Twitter

The director’s instructions were broadcast over local radio. One of the directions was for drivers to flash their high beams off and on, to make it seem like there was more movement than there actually was. That sounds like a ton of organization!

Magic Hour Lighting

Dwier Brown played Ray’s father in Field of Dreams. The scene needed very specific lighting during magic hour, which really did not give them much wiggle room. The scene in which he is playing catch with his son had to be filmed in a narrow window of time with little to no errors.

Brown in a still from Field of Dreams.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com / Copyright: Universal Pictures

Ray’s father’s character was so worried about dropping it during their game of catch. He was working with a rock-hard vintage catcher’s mitt and ultimately ended up filming a successful scene of it. He managed to convince us that he was fearless in this scene, so good for him!

After the Funeral

Imagine losing a parent just moments before you are supposed to be filming a scene where a parent and child are having an intense bonding moment. For actor Dwier Brown, who played Ray’s father, it was an experience watching something so close to his heart.

Brown and Costner at a Field of Dreams anniversary game.
Source: Facebook

Dwier Brown started filming just days after his father’s funeral. He got back just in time to play catch with his movie son, Kevin Costner. He was able to tap into the emotions of losing his own parent to give a truly authentic performance, though I’m sure the loss must have been traumatic.

Keeping Up the Field

The owner of the farm sold it back in 2012, but he still used it to preserve more memories. He met his now-wife at the farm when she came to visit the field from her favorite movie, Field of Dreams. She was one of many who made the sort of pilgrimage that true fans make.

Fans watch players re-enact games from the movie on the original Field of Dreams.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Allsport/Getty Images

Don Lansing still maintains the field, even though he sold the farm years ago. When Lansing proposed to his wife, he did so on first base on the field. This guy maintains the field to this day because it is important to him, and he likes to preserve history.

Where Are They Now?

Like many other industries, some people sink while others swim. It seems that so many people in this movie have managed to have long, flourishing careers — while some hung back in the shadows. We all can’t be George Clooney, but we can definitely try to be!

General view of the Field of Dreams house.
Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB/Getty Images

Some of these actors went on to star in in blockbuster films, even getting nominated for awards here and there. Others stuck to the indie film scene, instead of breaking out into the world of big Hollywood productions. Everyone has a different outcome!

James Earl Jones, Always a Legend

He played Terence Mann, an author that the local school board in the film voted to ban. At the time, he was known for quite a few projects, notably the hilarious comedy Coming to America with Eddie Murphy. He was also the voice of the internationally known Darth Vader.

James Earl Jones accepts the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre onstage, 2017.
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

After his days of filming Field of Dreams were done, James Earl Jones appeared in another baseball movie classic, The Sandlot. His voice known around the world as the voice of Mufasa, Simba’s father in The Lion King.

Where Is Ray Liotta?

Ray Liotta played Shoeless Joe Jackson, the dead player from the Chicago Black Sox who inspires Ray Kinsella to dig everything up and build a baseball field. Liotta trained with professional coaches in in order to get ready for this role, and he performed it seamlessly.

Ray Liotta attends
Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images

Ray Liotta haș had a busy career since his days in Field of Dreams. He appeared in movies like Smokin’ Aces, Narc, Cop Land, and Corrina, Corrina. He’s also appeared in some comedies like Youth in Revolt, Observe and Report, and Date Night. He’s still stealing our hearts like he’s stealing bases!

Kevin Costner, Still Beautiful as Ever

This movie was so close to casting someone else in his role — Tom Hanks was also considered. Not long after Field of Dreams, Costner appeared in classic films like Dances With Wolves. He has given us so many wonderful performances in his career since Field of Dreams.

Kevin Costner arrives for the Premiere Of 20th Century Fox's
Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

This dreamboat has been busy since his days as Ray Kinsella. He’s had leading roles in Swing Vote, Hatfield & McCoys, McFarland USA and, more recently, in Hidden Figures. He continually plays no-nonsense roles and does a great job at them!

Amy Madigan Flourished

Actress Amy Madigan had a flourishing career before appearing in Field of Dreams. She had previously starred in Streets of Fire and Uncle Buck before gracing the silver screen as Amy Kinsella, Ray’s super supportive wife. Someone else who auditioned for her role? Country star Reba McEntire.

Amy Madigan attends Premiere Of Roadside Attraction's
Photo by Leon Bennett/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Since her days as Amy Kinsella, she went on to appear in films like The Laramie Project, The Dark Half, and Gone Baby Gone — directed by one of the extras seen in Field of Dreams, the one and only Ben Affleck. She went on to have recurring roles in Grey’s Anatomy and Fringe.

The Little One, Gabby Hoffman

The same year she was featured in Field of Dreams, Gabby Hoffman also starred alongside Amy Madigan in Uncle Buck. Of course, she was just a child when the film first came out, but that was only the beginning of the amazing work she would continue to do.

Gabby Hoffman attends the Kitchen Spring Gala Benefit 2014.
Photo by Steve Zak Photography/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Gabby Hoffman continued as a child actress, starring in Sleepless in Seattle, Now and Then, and Everyone Says I Love You, amongst other projects. Later, she appeared as Adam Driver’s on-screen sister in HBO’s Girls and in films like Veronica Mars and Obvious Child.

Where Is Ray’s Brother Now?

Timothy Busfield played Mark, Ray’s brother. He couldn’t see the same ghosts that Ray could, which is why he tried to get his brother to sell the field. He previously starred in Stripes, Revenge of the Nerds, and even tried directing a bit in Thirtysomething.

Timothy Busfield visits People Now.
Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

Busfield has had a flourishing career since his time as Mark. He had recurring roles in Without a Trace, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He went on to appear in other films, he also actively worked as a TV director for shows like Damages, Franklin and Bash, and Children’s Hospital.

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