Farrelly Brothers Film at Fenway Park
BOSTON – It’s been a long time since the Boston Red Sox had a Hollywood ending ó 86 years, to be exact. The team’s history has played more like a horror flick, or considering Bill Buckner, perhaps a comedy of errors. Lately, though, Fenway Park has been the location for a different kind of comedy.
Lifelong Sox fans Peter and Bobby Farrelly have spent the past few weeks here shooting “Fever Pitch,” about a guy (Jimmy Fallon) who’s torn between the woman he loves (Drew Barrymore) and the baseball team he adores.
The Farrellys, directors of movies including “There’s Something About Mary” and “Dumb & Dumber” and natives of Cumberland, R.I., received unprecedented access to Fenway for what they call “the ultimate Red Sox movie.”
“I feel like I’m in my childhood now, just being here every day. It’s been magical, it really has,” 46-year-old Bobby said, sitting along the first-base line during batting practice before a recent showdown between the Sox and the hated New York Yankees.
“Just coming to work ó we’re in a hotel right around the corner ó walk over here to the park every morning, it’s great. The worst part is, I’m on the ballpark diet,” he added. “It’s nothing but hot dogs and peanuts every meal.”
“Fever Pitch,” based on the Nick Hornby book of the same name about a guy who’s obsessed with an English soccer team, already was made into a 1997 movie starring Colin Firth. This new version, written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (“A League of Their Own,” “City Slickers”), is due out from 20th Century Fox in summer 2005.
“It was such a beautiful script and a great story and it was about the Red Sox,” said Bobby, who usually co-writes the films he and his brother direct. “This one was made for us because we are, like, die-hard Red Sox fans. We wanted to get involved so we lobbied hard.”
The strategy worked. Although Fenway is the major league’s oldest ballpark ó and one of its most fabled ó very little has been shot here: a scene from “Field of Dreams,” an episode of “The Practice.” And with the shooting coinciding with the Sox’ late-season charge into the playoffs, the vibe in Fenway is electric even without movie cameras.
Saying yes to the idea was easy, said Chuck Steedman, the Red Sox’ senior director of business affairs: “It was the first script that I’d read that was really about us.”
The organization had three guidelines for the filmmakers.
“No. 1 is, there’s nothing more important to us than the pursuit of the playoffs here. That’s paramount,” Steedman said. “No. 2 is the integrity of the game ó that we can’t do anything that’s going to screw with the game. And No. 3 is, our playing field is not the best in the world and we can’t do anything that’s going to tax that.”
The Farrellys “were so respectful of that,” he added.
“We don’t want to interfere with any fans’ enjoyment of the game, ’cause people come to watch baseball ó they don’t come to watch a movie being filmed,” Bobby said. “And we didn’t want to interfere with any of the players or any of the team or what they’re focusing on. And it is a small, confining space, so that was the thing: to try to do it without being noticed.”
So when they shot a climactic scene in which Barrymore runs across the outfield and jostles with center fielder Johnny Damon, they waited until after a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
“We’d been making announcements during the game, and as soon as it was over we asked people to stay for 15 minutes ó almost everybody did ó and then we shot it and it was a ball for everybody,” Peter Farrelly said.
“It helped that they’d won that night. They won 11-1 or 11-2 or something,” he said. (Actually, they won 11-4.) “And the fans were jacked up, so it worked great.”
As for Damon, he was thrilled to be a part of the scene, as well ó and the popular outfielder, who resembles Jim Caviezel in “The Passion of the Christ” with his long, dark hair and scruffy beard, hopes this could be the start of a side career in acting.
“I wish I had a bigger part, maybe a kissing part or something, but you know, I’ll take it,” Damon said. “I think everyone looks at movie stars as the upper echelon as far as what the best job may be. All the guys are studs, all the girls are beautiful. It’d be nice.”
Although the Sox are hoping to win their first World Series since 1918, the Farrellys recently shot a scene that takes place on Opening Day.
Under blue skies and blinding sunshine, extras dressed in Manny Ramirez and Pokey Reese T-shirts milled around outside the Cask n’ Flagon, the famous sports bar behind the Green Monster, while real fans dressed in Manny Ramirez and Pokey Reese T-shirts looked on. Between takes, trucks loaded with beer and soda for that evening’s Yankees game rumbled along narrow Brookline Avenue.
In the middle of it all was Fallon, the former “Saturday Night Live” player, dressed in a navy blue pullover with the words Red Sox across his chest in red letters. The scene called for him to wait anxiously for Barrymore, who shows up straight from work in a gray business suit, carrying a black Prada bag.
Later in the day, Fallon ó who’s from Saugerties, N.Y., and a Yankees fan ó said he had some idea about his character from working with a “Weekend Update” producer on “SNL” who would come to work in a bad mood the day after a Sox loss.
“They’re, like, fans taken to the next level. They really are ó they’re, like, die-hard fans. And when the team loses, they lose. When the team wins, they win,” Fallon said, sitting near the Sox dugout as the smell of fresh-cut grass wafted from the outfield and chalk was being laid along the base paths.
“We’ve been here two weeks now and I came to, like, every game. I’ve talked to the fans, watched fans, from batting practice on until after the games. I went to the bars. I actually got to see what it’s like,” he added.
So could the positive energy of “Fever Pitch” break the Curse of the Bambino, which allegedly has suffocated the Sox since they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920?
“I would never, ever presume to break the curse,” said Peter, 47. “If the curse is broken this year it’s not ’cause of the movie. It’s ’cause of the owners ó the owners have a good vibe ó and the players. There’s a good vibe on this team. I would love to be around when they do break the curse. My grandfather didn’t live to see it, and my father’s 73 and he hasn’t seen one.”
“I don’t think the movie will break the curse,” Bobby Farrelly added. “If they were to break the curse, what’s next year? How would the fans react? I don’t even know what they’d do. They like their plight in life here, believe it or not.”
Fallon, however, is far more optimistic. He’s not from New England, so he lacks the gene that tells him to expect heartbreak.
“I think this movie will definitely break the curse, either this year or next year,” he said. “It’ll be the Blessing of the Farrellys.”
Farrelly Brothers Film at Fenway Park