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FOR LOVE OF THE GAME

Behind the Scenes
Known for his imaginative filmmaking style, director Sam Raimi mastered the horror and fantasy genre early in his career

Known for his imaginative filmmaking style, director Sam Raimi mastered the horror and fantasy genre early in his career.

His most recent foray into more mainstream fare was the critically-acclaimed A Simple Plan starring Bill Paxton and Academy Award nominee Billy Bob Thornton. "I was attracted to For Love of the Game by the screenplay," explains Raimi. "It is a very moving love story. He adds, "I'm also a big baseball fan and this was the first screenplay that I read that really got into the game. Dana (Stevens) really took us into the pitcher's head, what he was thinking and what it must be like to be in that intense mode of concentration." According to producer Amy Robinson, the combination of romance and baseball make a wonderful marriage. "The love story is trying to mirror the baseball-you never know what's going to happen."

Complementing the passion for baseball in the movie is the romantic passion between Billy Chapel and Jane Aubrey, portrayed by Kelly Preston. "Kelly brought a sense of vulnerability to the part that we really needed. Her character writes for the fashion magazines, and I think that she pulled that off in a convincing way," says Raimi.

"She's got a wonderful energy," points out Robinson. "Kelly is funny, charming, smart, beautiful and she brings a feistiness to Jane. You don't feel like Billy Chapel can run over this woman."

Preston, whose recent films included Jack Frost as well as the hit motion picture, Jerry Maguire, explains that despite Chapel's superstar lifestyle, Jane represents a stability to him that has been missing throughout his life. On the other hand, Jane is overwhelmed and confused by the fast life of a sports celebrity. "It's a wonderful meeting of those worlds," adds Preston. According to Bernstein, "We really scoured the countryside for the right actress, and it was clear that Kelly's take on her character and the movie was completely in synch with ours."

While Jane Aubrey maintained a certain ignorance about the sport, Preston personally is a huge baseball fan. "I'm not saying that I'm a good luck charm for the Yankees, but I have been working in New York twice when they won the World Series." The film was shot in both New York and Los Angeles with a short stop in Aspen, Colorado for some off-season scenes. Most of the east coast scenes were shot on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn except for several weeks at Yankee Stadium. "Since the book took place in New York, we always wanted to shoot there," says Armyan Bernstein, producer. "It always felt like a New York story to me."

According to Robinson, the Yankee Stadium location was not easy to secure. "When we started developing the project, baseball was really in the doldrums and people weren't liking the sport. Then, they had this glorious year with the home run race and the New York Yankees. We called George Steinbrenner, and when he heard that Kevin Costner was involved, he became very interested. He's a big Costner fan."

Negotiations with the Yankees and the unpredictable New York weather were factors to be considered during production. The negotiations, although arduous, were finally successful and the weather worked to the benefit of the production. Notes Executive Producer Ron Bozman, "It was a record-setting warm November never seen before in New York City history. We were very lucky." After securi

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