About a week or so ago, I went onto Twitter and saw that the author of The Sandlot, David Mickey Evans, had posted that he has a new movie that he’s just finished writing called Junior Americans. Now Evans has done many movies, not just The Sandlot. He’s also the man behind Radio Flyer!
Now let’s stop right here. If any, and I mean any, of you haven’t watched The Sandlot yet, go do it now. If you have kids, watch it with them. It’s an awesome movie and the 1993 flick has become a cult classic.
I geeked out when I saw that Evans was done writing yet another movie and tweeted to him to ask if we could talk. I was thrilled when he said yes.
When Evans was done writing Junior Americans, he took to Twitter to post a picture of the title page.
Were you surprised at the reaction?
There were 20 or 30 articles about it the next day. I guess I underestimated the reach and the power of social media, which I won’t do again. There are millions of people that love The Sandlot, so I understand why it happened. I can’t tell you how many phone calls from production companies, financiers, and the heads of a few studios that I got, so it looks like it will get financed.
That’s awesome news. When The Sandlot came out we weren’t in an era of social media. When you read a script back then, you had to travel to California to get it sold and have a PR person do all the work to promote it.
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. In the old days, it was finish the script and the agent would read it and then you’d get on the landline. Today, what’s a landline? (laughs) That’s the best part of social media, is that it doesn’t cost a penny, and it can land you the people with the money. And that’s so different.
Is it true that The Sandlot came from the experience that you had with your brother?
It was me and my little brother and we used to live in Southern California. We were pretty poor and we did not have a happy childhood. We lived on this block and we had a very difficult and troubled home life, so we’d get beat up there, and then we’d get beat up on the way to school, beat up at school, and beat up on the way home from school. And beat up on our block, and then beat up at home! You learn to take a beating.
The kids on this block we lived on were all sports fans. My brother and I are big baseball fans, but they would never let us play. One day, when my brother was eight or nine years old they were playing and hit a ball over this fence, and said to my brother, “If you go get the ball, you can play with us.” He wanted to play, so he jumped the fence to get the ball. What they didn’t tell him was that there was a big, chained-up, ill-treated, vicious German shepherd nicknamed, believe it or not, Hercules. My brother tried to scramble over the wall and it bit him in the leg, really bad. I always hated those guys and I carried that with me into my adult life.
After I had had great success with Radio Flyer it was still in my head. I was wondering why I couldn’t let it go. By the time I got home, I was just, “I gotta get rid of this.” Writing to a certain extent is a cathartic endeavor, but this one was terribly cathartic. I figured I’m gonna write something and I’m gonna turn them all into heroes. And that’s what happened.
Before The Sandlot, there was The Bad News Bears and the Mighty Ducks, a whole genre of sports movies for kids. What do you think made your script so attractive to Hollywood back then, almost coming out of that same time period?
That’s a really good question. It’s odd how this thing got made. When I wrote Radio Flyer, it broke all of the spec script records in Hollywood. Jon Peters and Peter Guber had just recently looked at the script when it hit the market. Peters tells me, “Oh my God, this script’s great. You wrote my childhood.” They offered me tons of money for the script, but they didn’t want me to direct it, because I was this 27-year-old and I stuck to my guns, “No, I’m going to direct it.”
They gave me contractually eight days in the seat, and on the eighth day, they fired me. Then I wrote The Sandlot shortly after I got fired, and it went on the market. I got offered many times more for that script than I got offered for Radio Flyer, but you couldn’t find anybody that would give me the directing job. I had written it in such a way that was very contained. Most of it takes place in three or four major locations, so production-wise, it was handle-able, and I knew I could do it.
One guy in Hollywood called and said, “It’s a great script. I love it. One of the best I’ve read. I gonna fund this movie, let you direct it.” I was confused, but he said, “I looked you up. Every single person I called said you couldn’t direct your way out of a paper bag. They can’t all be right.”
The closest thing The Sandlot comes to is The Bad News Bears. It’s about all those kids and Buttermaker and sort of his redemption. The Sandlot’s not about baseball, it’s about friendship. The Mighty Ducks is about hockey. There’s no big game at the end of The Sandlot.
I guess the reason that The Sandlot endures is that it’s what they call an evergreen film and none of those other movies are. None of them. It’s the only one and I think the reason for that is because it doesn’t matter who you are, how you grew up, where you grew, or the circumstances under which you grew up, it’s one of three things: either you were one of those boys, you wanted to be one of those boys, or you knew boys like that. I think it’s very honest and I think it’s very authentic. That’s why I think it endures.
Tell us about your new script Junior Americans.
In a nutshell it’s about the first only and last time so far that any National American Little League sanctioned team was ever coached by kids the same age as the players. The players were 14 years old and these two coaches were 14 years old. The reason they had to coach them is because no dad or anybody else would step up in this district to coach these 12 kids because they sucked. They were really bad and over the last few years I guess you start little league when you’re like nine I think and you age out at 14 or something like that.
These kids were really bad, but they always wanted to play so every year they would get drafted individually onto other teams. They had never played on the same team before. But this year there were 12 of them which makes a little league and nobody would coach them. These two kids were great ball players and baseball nuts, who had just gone into high school and made first string varsity in their first year and they asked their parents if they could do it.
Look at the modern American teenager – you get up and go to school, you got an after school job, you play sports, you got homework. You go to bed, you get up, you do it again and again and again, so it occurred to me the story of this thing is that it was about taking your first step into the grown up world maybe a little too soon and what does that do to you.
The other thing was that they had been best friends since kindergarten. How does that affect the difficult decisions you have to make, the stresses, the worries that that those responsibilities and obligations that you take on, how do they affect that friendship? In a good way or a bad way or what? That’s what the movie’s about and that appealed to me.
I love that because like you said, there’s not just the story there. You have that heart which is exactly what The Sandlot had.
That’s exactly right. When I go to the movies or I watch a movie, I want to be moved emotionally. That’s what Hitchcock said, he goes to the movies for only one thing – their emotion. My favorite thing to do is go to the movies and come out of there feeling great.
When will we get to see the movie?
If, after I’m done with this next movie I’m doing, we cut it over the winter, then the earliest it would be released would be – and this would be great- close to opening day of baseball for next year.
Nice! Where did your love of baseball come from?
When I was a little kid I grew up in the North San Fernando Valley. It’s Los Angeles County and so my team was the Dodgers. When I was growing up it was just past the Sandy Koufax era but it was Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Rick Monday and all those guys and Tommy Lasorda, was the manager. I got to go to maybe one or two baseball games at Dodgers Stadium when I was a kid and I was astounded when I walked into that stadium for the first time.
I’ve been to not quite all, but almost every major league baseball stadium in the United States.
A lot of those were when I was in tour with The Sandlot in 2013 for its 20th anniversary. We shared it at 26 major and minor league baseball parks all over America. We drove 33,000 miles in nine months. It was quite a journey. So I got to Yankee stadium, Busch Stadium, you name it we went there. There are a lot of beautiful baseball parks but there is no place on earth better for watching baseball games than Dodgers Stadium. It is perfect, especially if it’s a summer game, it’s about seven o’clock, the sun’s kind of going down, it’s breezy and balmy and you’ve got all of the sky you’re sitting in the stands you see the entire thing. The two big jumbo trons in the blue sky beyond; it’s magical. It’s absolutely magical and that experience never left. It’s more powerful inside me now than it was then.
The ’70s, when the Yankees and the Dodgers were in the playoffs, was a big deal for me. I bleed Dodger blue. There were a lot of years where the Dodgers just stunk but true fans don’t team hop. You stick with your team.
I’m a Mets fan I know the feeling!
You have to be loyal.
So many people say that The Sandlot was the movie of their generation. What movie made you feel that way?
That’s easy. Star Wars.
I saw tons of movies when I was a little kid and we didn’t have any money, so we would collect empty bottles with our Radio Flyer wagon and turn them in for a nickel each.
I saw Star Wars and from the very first shot my brain just shut off. I thought I was literally in space, I thought it was really happening, they had taken a crew into space and shot this movie and I didn’t know what that was. There are a million other movies after that had profound influences on me but that was the moment.
And you’ve had that same impact on others.
There was an older man who came up to me at a table where I was and he had about 12 copies of The Sandlot. And he said, “Can you please sign this one for me and this one for my wife?” “Can you sign this one for my son? This one for my daughter, this one for my other son, this one for these two grandkids?” It was three generations. He said, “This is our family’s favorite movie and it means more to us than you’ll possibly know.” And I was blown away.
Behind him was a mom with three kids and she said that “Danny and Scotty and those boys are not just characters in a movie, they’re my children’s friends.” I had never heard anything that, that was really incredibly wonderful.”
Thanks David. Can’t wait for Junior Americans!
Follow David Mickey Evans on Twitter at @DMESandlot
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