Caffeinated Clint Greats : Interview Series


What is Caffeinated Clint’s Greats?
I’ve had plenty of emails from you guys asking such questions as “Who were your favourite actors growing up?”, “Do you have a favourite movie?”, “You’re producing films now, any particular film that inspired you to take that road?” and “Hey man, Got Kristen Stewart’s phone number?”, and it gave my an idea – why not profile some of my favourite films? (It saves me from flaming a pimply, unintelligent publicist or another fresh-from-junior-high exec over some harebrained remake he’s just greenlit for a couple of weeks, after all) and in doing so, why not make contact with some of the people from these films?

Today’s Favourite Film Profiled :

Title : Major League
Year : 1989
Director : David S.Ward
Starring : Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Rene Russo, Margaret Whitton, Dennis Haysbert, Wesley Snipes, Bob Uecker

“Major League” is one of my favourite comedies. I saw it as part of a late night triple feature with “The Abyss” and “Skin Deep” at a not-so-crowded theatre in 1989. I remember that evening fondly, for a couple of reasons : Firstly, because I was late to the theater. Having to rely on my mother for a ride at the time, and as we’d been out of town for the majority of the day, I got there about half-way through the first movie (James Cameron’s “The Abyss”). I wasn’t a happy chappy. Still, I was there for the duration of the John Ritter classic “Skin Deep” and David S.Ward’s “Major League”, so that’s probably all that matters. And I did, of course, end up catching “The Abyss” shortly after (at the Drive-In, I believe).

As funny as “Skin Deep” was, “Major League” really worked the audience into a lather. I remember just how pumped it got the audience – – we were literally standing in the aisles, or on our seats, cheering for those Cleveland Indians! And folks went nuts when ‘Wild Thing’ walked through the gate and onto the field, in that big near scene near the end. It was just a big, fat crowd-pleaser. I couldn’t find a Cleveland Indian’s cap any faster that week – and I believe, though covered in dust, I still have it somewhere here. But as I said, the crowd was hysterical – and it was great; I don’t think I’ve attended a screening of anything that’s gotten an audience so pumped!

One of 1989’s most successful comedies, “Major League” tells of baseball’s losing team, The Cleveland Indians, and their astonishing comeback – ultimately going on to win the World Series. The film reunited “Platoon” duo Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen, as well as featured “L.A Law” star Corbin Bernsen, newcomers Rene Russo (who we all had a crush on in that film, right!?), Dennis Haysbert (years before he’d play President Palmer on TV hit “24”) and Wesley Snipes (very, very funny in this movie), and ’80s movie staples Margaret Whitton (“The Secret of My Success”, “Nine and a Half Weeks”) and James Gammon (“Ironweed”, “Silver Bullet”, “Silverado”).

Q&A with David S.Ward

Fearing he’d never get to see his beloved Cleveland Indians ever win a world series in real life, Academy Award Winning screenwriter David S. Ward (“The Sting”, “Sleepless in Seattle”) decided to write a movie in which the losing team do just that. Had a chat to the legendary filmmaker earlier this week.

Caffeinated Clint : Does it surprise you that, twenty years after the film’s release, someone’s ringing to interview you about the film?

David Ward : Well, I’m constantly surprised by what a life this film has had. It seems to be a film that’s discovered, and consequently enjoyed, generation after generation. I guess baseball fans love it, too.

Caffeinated Clint : And were you one – a baseball fan? Is that where the interest in doing the film came from?

David Ward : I grew up in Cleveland where, the Cleveland Indians had not won a World Series since 1948. At the time that I wrote Major League they were basically the last place team. I figured they would never win anything in my lifetime, unless I made a movie where they did. But I knew it had to be a comedy – it couldn’t be a drama about the Cleveland Indians winning.

Caffeinated Clint : So you wrote the film on spec?

David Ward : Well, actually I originally wrote it for a mini-studio called Embassy that went out of business. I got the script in turnaround, and I started taking it around to other companies. It took me a while to get it made because people kept telling me – at the time baseball was being broadcast on cable television – that why would anyone pay to go and watch baseball when they can watch it for free on TV? I said, “It’s not a movie about a baseball game – it’s a movie about the players!” It was a movie about what happened between the games. Even when they’re on the field we’re dealing with their other problems. So it wasn’t going to be like watching a baseball game, but sometimes people are just silly. And then, all at once, for whatever reason, there were several baseball movies – Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out – and they were all done within about six to eight months of one another.

Caffeinated Clint : Did you always plan on directing ”Major League”?

David Ward : I always did it with directing in mind. I had directed one film before that, Cannery Row, but it hadn’t been that successful, so I desperately wanted to get another shot. I knew that this one had to make a little more of a mark or I might not ever get another chance.
Caffeinated Clint : I think what works so well about “Major League”, besides the writing of course, is the cast – it’s just a sublime cast.

David Ward : Yeah. One of the things that I like to do is to comedies without comedians. I work with actors who can be funny, but aren’t out there doing some kind of comic shtick. Before Major League nobody knew that Charlie Sheen could even do comedy. When I first met Charlie I was struck by how funny he was -I thought if he can be this funny in person, he’s only going to be funnier in movies. He and Tom Berenger, Dennis Haysbert and Wesley Snipes hadn’t done a lot of comedies – but they really proved they do know comedy, and they should do more of it.

Caffeinated Clint : Snipes, especially. I think ”Major League” is one of his finest performances – definitely one of the most memorable!

David Ward : I certainly was thrilled with his performance. He was good again, comically, in White Men Can’t Jump but then he sorta became an action guy. He can do everything and I’d like to see him get the chance to do more.

Caffeinated Clint : Did Wesley not want to come back and do “Major League II”? is that why Omar Epps took over the role of Willie Mays Hays?

David Ward : He wanted to, but he had become a bigger star then, and the studio didn’t want to pay him knowing his going price had increased. I guess the studio decided that his role was secondary to Berenger and Sheen’s. Omar Epps did a really good job, but it was tough replacing Wesley – audiences knew it wasn’t the same guy.

Caffeinated Clint : Were you happy with how “Major League” did when it came out?

David Ward : Oh yeah. It was a great surprise. I had no idea how it would do. But we worked hard on it, and knew we had a good movie, so I’m glad the people came.

Caffeinated Clint : We talked a little about the sequel, but what about that other sequel : “Major League : Back in the Minors”?

David Ward : You know, I had nothing to do with that. I didn’t even know it existed. I caught it on a plane. I don’t really consider it a Major League movie because it’s, well… it’s about a guy in the minor leagues.

Caffeinated Clint : It wasn’t a very good movie. Very disappointing. Have you got any interest in going back and doing another ‘’Major League” movie?

David Ward : We’re actually talking about doing one right now. I’ve written, what I see, as Major League 3. We’re putting that together as we speak – in fact, next week I’m off to talk to James Robinson at Morgan Creek about it.

Caffeinated Clint : Oh great! And with the original cast?

David Ward : We hope so, yeah. It’s 20 years later, and Wild Thing comes out of retirement to work with this 19-year-old player. We’ve actually got three new characters in the new film. And if the new film is popular, [those new characters] could carry the franchise on.

Caffeinated Clint : Have you spoken to any cast members about it yet?

David Ward : I’ve only spoken to Charlie Sheen. And he’s excited to do it if and when it happens. But he can’t shoot it this year, because he’s back doing Two-and-a-Half Men, but we could potentially shoot it next year – in his hiatus from the show

Caffeinated Clint : And would you try to get Wesley Snipes back?

David Ward : I would love to have Wesley come back.