About The Production
With a movie featuring so many key roles played by young actor/athletes,
casting was incredibly important. It was also a major undertaking. Executive
producer Herbert W. Gains explains, "We always felt we wanted children from
Chicago wherever possible, because we felt they would better relate to our
movie." Although athletic tryouts were held in several American cities, the
filmmakers were pleased that local boys filled so many roles.
As Baseball Coordinator Mark Ellis breaks it down, "There are a lot of
baseball scenes in the film. Some of these scenes are of actual game play, while
others are dialogue sequences with the ballfield as backdrop. It was important
that the actors had some experience playing the game." Ellis and the
production team interviewed 600 youngsters during two days in Chicago alone.
From there, 350 were invited to a three-week training camp, and eventually 40
made the cut for major and minor roles in the picture.
All of the boys in the cast have a passion for performing, but what makes
them really shine on the field is their love of athletics. The training camp
director Brian Robbins and Baseball Coordinator Mark Ellis set up was organized
so that the mornings consisted of rehearsal and acting lessons while afternoons
were spent honing baseball skills. Robbins relates that Acting Coach Bob
Krackower videotaped the rehearsals and would later play it for the boys'
mothers (who delighted in seeing their kids in action). The young cast members
also impressed Ellis: "It is great that director Brian Robbins cast really
athletic actors. These guys are good athletes."
Hot off his 1999 smash hit action film, "The Matrix," Keanu Reeves
brings an openness and athleticism to his role of reluctant baseball coach Conor
O'Neill. It was sports that gave the actor one of his earliest breaks in the
movies. Raised in Toronto, Keanu took a keen interest in ice hockey during high
school--as team goalie, he earned the nickname, "The Wall"--and
eventually scored a supporting role in the Rob Lowe hockey film,
"Youngblood," which was filmed in Canada.
Reeves thoroughly understands the correlation between sports and maturity. As
he recalls, "sports were an important part of growing up. The physical
development, awareness of space, competition, teamwork and the leadership of a
coach - all relate to the travails of life. Things like failing and succeeding
and developing one's own thinking all can be learned through athletics."
One of the young actors was more relieved than the others upon meeting
Reeves: "My parents told me that many actors are mean. So I expected him to be a
little edgy and stuff. But he turned out to be a really nice guy."
Another young co-star, Kristopher Loften, who portrays 'Clarence,' says
Reeves was always playing with the kids: wrestling, teasing them about "The
Matrix", talking about his life. Loften also has high praise for director
Brian Robbins and Robbins' rapport with the pre-teenagers:
"Brian just tells us - 'You guys, we're going to try to get this scene
in two takes. If I mess up, you guys can beat me up. But, if you mess up, it's
For the director, this film was truly a dream come true. Brian Robbins is the
producer, with business partner Mike Tollin, of several successful Nickelodeon
TV series (including the popular "Kenan & Kel," "Cousin
Skeeter" and "All That") and the Paramount Pictures/MTV Films
movie, "Good Burger," which he also directed. Robbins has received
numerous Image Award nominations from the NAACP as well as honors from the
Directors Guild of America (for Achievement in Children's Programming) and
Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards. He scored big helming the hit Paramount
Pictures/MTV Films high school football drama, "Varsity Blues". He has
produced and directed such acclaimed projects as "Sports Theater with
Shaquille O'Neal," and "Hank Aaron: Chasing the<
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