After the movie was completed, test audiences didn't like the name "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, because they said it sounded like a movie about a bum or hobo. Universal called Director and Screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson to tell him that "Shoeless Joe" didn't work, and the studio changed the title of the film to "Field of Dreams". When Robinson heard the news of the change, he called W.P. Kinsella, the author of the book, and told him the "bad" news, but apparently he didn't care, saying that "Shoeless Joe" was the title the publishing company gave the book. Kinsella's original title was "Dream Field".
The studio built the baseball diamond on an actual farm in Dyersville, Iowa. After the filming was completed, the family owning the farm kept the field, and added a small hut where you could buy inexpensive souvenirs. As of 2012, visitors were free to come to the field and play baseball as they please.
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson remarks about Ty Cobb's desire to play at the Field of Dreams (1989), "None of could stand the son-of-a-bitch when he was alive, so we told him to stick it." In real-life, both players were very close friends. In Jackson's later life, when he ran a liquor store in South Carolina, Cobb stopped there to buy bourbon. During the sale, Jackson made no sign of recognition to Cobb, until Cobb finally said, "For God's sakes, Joe, don't you remember me?" Jackson somberly replied, "Well, sure, I remember you, Ty. I just didn't think anyone wanted to remember me anymore."
According to supplementary material on the DVD, shortly before shooting began, Dwier Brown (John Kinsella) was notified that his father unfortunately passed away. Immediately after the funeral, he traveled directly from the funeral to filming in Iowa for the scene. He stated that although the emotion was too fresh and painful, it had an effect on how he eventually played his scene with Kevin Costner.
Then unknown, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are among the thousands of extras in the Fenway Park scene, and are uncredited. Over a decade later, when Phil Alden Robinson welcomed Affleck to the set of The Sum of All Fears (2002), Affleck said, "Nice working with you again." Robinson asked, "What do you mean 'again'?" and Affleck explained the connection.
Thousands of pallets of green grass were brought in to make the baseball field, but due to the haste in planting because of the shooting schedule, the grass was not able to grow appropriately and died. In order to keep the grass green, the production crew painted the grass.
Ray Liotta had no baseball experience, and batted right-handed, although "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was a leftie. Phil Alden Robinson allowed Liotta to bat with his right, but still put him through several weeks of extensive training with University of Southern California baseball coach, and former Brooklyn Dodger, Rod Dedeaux, in order to be convincing as one of the sport's greatest hitters. Liotta eventually developed a good swing. The scene where he hits a line-drive straight back at Kevin Costner actually happened. Costner's fall on the mound was real, and although it was a surprise, he stayed in character.
There was an actual Archibald "Moonlight" Graham. The scene where Terrence Mann is interviewing the men in the bar, were people who knew the real "Doc" Graham. They found out about the movie and the inclusion of "Doc" Graham's character. They drove from Chisholm, Minnesota to Iowa. The stories the men shared, were actual stories about "Doc" Graham.
In the novel, instead of seeking fictional author Terrance Mann, Ray Kinsella seeks real-life 60s author J.D. Salinger. In 1947, Salinger wrote a story called "A Young Girl In 1941 With No Waist At All" featuring a character named Ray Kinsella, and in his most famous work, the novel "The Catcher in the Rye", one of Holden Caulfield's classmates is Richard Kinsella. (In the original novel, Ray has a twin brother named Richard.)
Archibald "Moonlight" Wright Graham was a real baseball player. On June 29, 1905, with the New York Giants, he played one Major League Baseball game. Following that one game, he continued playing professionally through the 1908 season, mostly in the New York State League, until retiring at the age of thirty.
Ray Liotta bats right-handed and throws left-handed. The real "Shoeless" Joe Jackson batted left-handed and threw right-handed, exactly the opposite of the way he was portrayed. In Eight Men Out (1988), Jackson was portrayed correctly.
Although his character delivers the movie's signature speech praising baseball, in real-life, James Earl Jones hates baseball. Despite this, he would play another baseball enthusiast, four years later in The Sandlot (1993).
During filming, Iowa was in the middle of a drought, and the cornfields surrounding the diamond had to be given lots of extra water in order to grow tall enough for the actors to disappear into the stalks. As a result, the corn grew too fast for the Costner shots. In the one scene where corn is above his shoulders, he is walking on an elevated plank.
J.D. Salinger, on whom the character Terence Mann is based, was very offended by the fictional portrayal of himself in W.P. Kinsella's novel "Shoeless Joe", upon which the film is based. His lawyers said that they would be "unhappy if it (the story) were transferred to other media", so the studio created the character of Terence Mann.
At some point during principal photography, Phil Alden Robinson began to lose confidence in his ability to tell the story effectively. He dreamed angry fans of the book were coming at him with knives. Larry Gordon had to call him with a pep talk, telling him his script was great, and that he just needed to trust it, and shoot what he had written.
Phil Alden Robinson had created a temp track which was disliked by Universal executives. When the announcement of James Horner as composer was made, they felt more positive because they expected a big orchestral score, similar to Horner's work for An American Tail (1986). Horner, in contrast, liked the temporary score, finding it "quiet, and kind of ghostly". He decided to follow the idea of the temp track, creating an atmospheric soundtrack which would "focus on the emotions".
W.P. Kinsella, author of the original novel, was asked to write a review of the movie for a Canadian periodical. He gave it four stars out of five for two reasons: he didn't think the character of Mark was villainous enough, and he didn't think that Gaby Hoffmann (Karin) looked like she could be Kevin Costner and Amy Madigan's child.
The Cracker Jack baseball cards shown in the beginning of the film, are based on real baseball cards produced in 1914 and 1915. However, the actual set does not include cards of Babe Ruth, or Lou Gehrig. There is, however, a "Shoeless" Joe Jackson card very similar to the Jackson card shown in the film, which has become very popular with collectors, since the film's release.
The story depended on the farm having row after row of high corn, but when shooting was set to begin, the crop was stunted, due to the worst drought in Iowa since the Dustbowl. Three weeks before shooting was scheduled for the fields, the company spent twenty-five thousand dollars to truck in water from the Mississippi River, to help the corn grow. As a hedge against that possibly failing, Production Designer Dennis Gassner ordered fifty thousand silk corn stalks from South Korea, but it turned out not to be necessary, as the crop began to grow in time. Charles Gordon later related how the production, and farm owner Lansing, became unpopular among the locals, whose own crops were suffering in the drought.
Phil Alden Robinson has said that his greatest regret about this film, is that he never used any African-American baseball players. The use of African-American players might have compromised the historical accuracy of the film, since no African-American players were known to have played Major League baseball between 1884 (Fleet and Welday Walker for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, considered a Major League from 1882-1891) and 1947, the year Jackie Robinson broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, the point was to focus on the plight of African-American ballplayers in that similar era. As much as "Shoeless" Joe was banned from baseball, many African-American players never got a chance, simply because of their race.
Incorrectly cited as a goof, is when one player turns around and jokingly mimics the witch from The Wizard of Oz (1939) by saying, "I'm melting, I'm melting". The Chicago White Sox players of Black Sox Scandal repute were from 1919, while the movie didn't premiere till 1939. However, the players remember their lives after baseball, since one remarks he hadn't had a cigarette for eighteen years, so they all would have known about the film, unless they died before 1939.
In real-life, Joe Jackson was a soft spoken, humble Southerner. A far cry from the brash New York accented Ray Liotta. Also, in the film, Jackson claims he couldn't stand Ty Cobb. In real-life, Cobb and Jackson were close friends.
Karin's (Gaby Hoffmann's) line "They'll come to Iowa City. They'll think it's really boring." is a reference to the original "Shoeless Joe" novel. In the book, the Kinsella farm was located near Iowa City, Iowa, and J.D. Salinger's monologue (similar to Terence Mann's) included ideas about people touring Iowa City before coming to the farm. In the film, the closest major city to the farm is Dubuque, Iowa.
Phil Alden Robinson and the producers did not originally consider Kevin Costner for the part of Ray, because they did not think that he would want to follow Bull Durham (1988) with another baseball movie. Costner, however, did end up reading the script, and became interested in the project, stating that he felt the movie would be "this generation's It's a Wonderful Life (1946)". Since Robinson's directorial debut In the Mood (1987) had been a commercial failure, Costner also said that he would help Robinson with the production.
During the "search for Terry" scene, Ray can be seen driving up Huntington Avenue in Boston, and in fact at one point, he's just a matter of a few blocks from the very site where the very first World Series was played between the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903, which were played on what they at that time referred to as the "Huntington Avenue Grounds".
During a lunch with the Iowa Chamber of Commerce, Phil Alden Robinson broached his idea of a final scene in which headlights could be seen for miles along the horizon. The Chamber folks replied that it could be done, and the shooting of the final scene became a community event. The film crew was hidden on the farm, to make sure the aerial shots did not reveal them. Dyersville was then blackened out, and local extras drove their vehicles to the field. In order to give the illusion of movement, the drivers were instructed to continuously switch between their low and high beams.
James Earl Jones decided to do the film, after his wife read the script, and became mesmerized by Mann's "People will come" speech. Both joked they had concerns that the scene would be cut from the film.
To get the most evocative visuals, Director of Photography John Lindley shot during the "magic hour" as the sun was setting. The term is a misnomer, as the right lighting lasts only about ten to fifteen minutes. Single scenes had to be shot over a period of several days each.
The movie was released a little over six months following Eight Men Out (1988), which portrayed a historical depiction of the 1919 White Sox and World Series scandal. The proximity of the releases generated public awareness and sympathies towards the team's plight. As a result, public sentiment began to grow in favor of seeing Joe Jackson's lifetime ban from Major League Baseball being overturned. At the end of August, 2015, commissioner Rob Manfred stated that he had reviewed the actions of commissioners Commissioner Giamatti and Vincent, judged them to be correct, and had determined that it was not appropriate to re-open the matter.
Shots of the auditorium meeting at Western Dubuque were filmed during school hours. Within that time, students were getting noisy, causing multiple re-shoots. Finally, after numerous takes, executives came in the classrooms and yelled to keep it down.
Phil Alden Robinson had originally envisioned "Shoeless" Joe Jackson as being played by an actor in his 40s, someone who would be older than Kevin Costner, and who could thereby act as a father surrogate. Ray Liotta did not fit that criteria, but Robinson thought he would be a better fit for the part, because Liotta had the "sense of danger" and ambiguity, which Robinson wanted in the character.
Don Lansing, the owner of the property chosen, agreed to let the production reconfigure his house and open it up inside to accommodate cameras and equipment. He was paid twelve thousand for his consent. An air conditioning system was installed, a porch built, and the floors levelled.
Although Terence Mann ends up admitting that he heard and saw the images at Fenway Park, there is a subtle hint that he was aware of what was going on during the game. If you pay close attention to Mann, he suddenly stiffens up when Ray hears the voice say "Go the distance". He then leans forward in his seat, when the scoreboard lights up with "Moonlight" Graham's stats.
When "Shoeless" Joe Jackson asks about the lights at the ball field, Ray comments that every ballpark had them, adding "Even Wrigley". Wrigley Field had famously been the only Major League stadium without lights, not adding them until August 1988, a few months prior to the films release. In the original novel, Ray told Jackson that every ballpark except for Wrigley had lights.
The aerial shot near the end showing cars lined up coming to the field required a complete blackout of the town. About fifteen hundred locals were enlisted. The number of cars, however, brought the traffic almost to a standstill. Drivers were instructed to flash their brights on and off to create the illusion of movement.
Shoeless Joe says it's hard to see the ball because of the lights when he first meets Ray. Ray explains that owners put lights in so that night games could be played and the teams could make more money. Shoeless Joe replies, "owners" with a disgusted dismissive tone. The background story of the 1919 White Sox scandal is that the owner was cheap and didn't pay the players what he'd promised them. As a result they accepted bribes from prominent gamblers to throw the series. In any reality, it is well documented that the 1919 White Sox players despised the owner, making Shoeless Joe's scoff at owners putting lights on the field meaningful.
Preview test audiences did not take well to the original title (taken directly from the book), "Shoeless Joe", saying it sounded like a film about a homeless person. The studio decided to change it to Field of Dreams, which Phil Alden Robinson opposed, until he called W.P. Kinsella with the news. Kinsella said the change was fine with him, because he originally wanted to call his book "Dream Field", but was overruled by his publisher.
The real-life Archie Graham was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the second of ten children. He played baseball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was also a member of the Dialectic Society, a debating organization. His brother, Frank Porter Graham, was President of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was later a U.S. Senator.
Phil Alden Robinson wanted to cast James Stewart as "Moonlight" Graham, but Stewart had not acted on-screen for almost a decade at that point. One scene shows Karin watching the James Stewart movie Harvey (1950) on television.
Although "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was a left-handed hitter, producers decided to let Ray Liotta bat from his natural right-handed side. Liotta often had people point out the inaccuracy to him, to which he would respond "None of the players ever came back to life either."
After the PTA meeting, when Ray and Annie crash into the lockers, they are not exiting from the gym, in which they were originally. They exit from the women's restroom at the school. There is not an exit from the gym that you could possibly crash into lockers. But, this point is moot, because the school in the story is fictional.
According to Phil Alden Robinson, Kevin Costner was the studio's first choice for the part of Ray, but having just starred in Bull Durham (1988), they didn't think he'd want to be in a second straight baseball movie. Ultimately, one studio executive slipped a script to Costner, who immediately expressed interest in the film.
When, at the dinner table, Ray first mentions the baseball field and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, the music in the background is "Daydream" by The Lovin' Spoonful. The singer is John Sebastian, who is best known for his performance at Woodstock, and in the film Woodstock (1970), and later, the theme to Welcome Back, Kotter (1975). He would have been a big part of Ray and Annie's sixties experience.
One of two films released in 1989, that star Gaby Hoffman and she has a co-star with the surname Brown. In this film it's Dwier Brown. The other film is Uncle Buck, in which Hoffmann co-stars with Garrett M. Brown.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The final shot of the film was a big community event, enlisting fifteen hundred volunteers to drive for the last shot. For only a brief time, could the headlights, and also the blue of the sky be shown in one shot. The first take was too bright. On the second shot the lighting was perfect, but the camera f-stop was messed up. Just before the final shot, Phil Alden Robinson realized that as with any heavy traffic, most of the cars weren't moving. They would just look like lights on posts. He relayed a quick instruction through the local radio station: flash your high beams on and off. Though the cars are not moving, this simulated the appearance of lights passing behind obstructions to perfect effect.
The line, "Hey, Dad, you wanna have a catch?" originally didn't include "Dad". Audiences were disappointed in the lack of acknowledgment of father and son, and the word "Dad" was looped in during post-production.
When Ray's brother-in-law yells at him, "Ray, do you know how much this land is worth?" and he responds, "Yeah, twenty-two hundred bucks an acre," the exchange is supposed to connote that the baseball field represents a large, intolerable financial loss. Actually, a baseball field is about two acres in size, which, even if it had generous proportions, meaning that Ray was losing no more than five thousand dollars from maintaining his "Field of Dreams".
Phil Alden Robinson wanted very little said between Ray Kinsella's character and his father's ghost in the last scene. He originally wrote and shot it to have Ray catch himself as he was about to introduce the ghost of his father to his wife. Preview audiences were either confused about who the character was, or thought Ray was cruel for not acknowledging their relationship. Robinson added the line, "Hey Dad, you wanna have a catch?" It tested very well.