- Dwier Brown, best-known for his role as John Kinsella in Field of Dreams, plays George Gipp in a spoof to show America Northern Illinois University belongs in the Discover Orange Bowl
- Brown talks about an e-mail that started his relationship with NIU and how Field of Dreams still affects him and others over 20 years later
- See the video he made for NIU
College football fans have been treated to a few close bowl games this season, but as the bowls get down to the Final Four, oddsmakers don't expect much of a game in the Discover Orange Bowl.
No. 12 Florida State is a two-touchdown favorite to beat No. 15 Northern Illinois, the BCS-busters of 2013. The team no one feels deserves to be in a major bowl -- including ESPN college football commentators -- will be on EPSN New Year's night at 8:30 p.m.
To make a statement they belong, and find a funny way to answer critics, Northern Illinois came up with a unique idea from the heavens, use Dwier Brown.
Brown is best-know as one of the most influential movie actors in history to have a movie about him then only have to deliver a few, powerful lines.
He played John Kinsella, Kevin Costner's on-screen father in Field of Dreams.
In a video from a hospital bed, Brown is playing George Gipp in a spoof of the 1940 movie, “Knute Rockne, All American” which Ronald Reagan was laying in a hospital bed (see video and rest of story below)
FORGING A 'TY' WITH NIU
As the guy who came out of a cornfield in Field of Dreams to play catch with Kevin Costner, Brown gets a lot of fan mail and questions, even 23 years after the film was released.
Brown received an e-mail out of the blue from Ty Ballou asking for help promoting Northern Illinois University. Ballou is on the board of directors in addition to his work with athletes and charities at PLB Sports in Pittsburgh (www.plbsports.com) and his work with http://www.ballouskies.com, which raises money to directly help anyone with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
“I received this strange e-mail and sometimes I don't answer the strange e-mails but this one I answered back,” said Brown. “He went to NIU in DeKalb and wanted to help them generate some excitement in the school concerning a renovation project on campus, using the theme, 'If you build it he will come.'
“All of his ideas were on e-mail, and I thought, 'This guy is looney,' as I didn't know anything about him, the university or if he was trying to profit from it,” said Brown. “I did some research on him and I saw a video of him with his son, Ryan, and the things they were doing to help research of Duschenne Muscular Dystrophy and knew he was a real human being. Now I know he's still looney, but in a great way!”
HAVE POWERPOINT, WILL TRAVEL
Brown said he flew out to DeKalb because of Ballou's passion and ideas. Even 10 minutes before the power point presentation, he had no idea exactly how everything was going to play out.
“When I saw DeKalb, it felt right. I told Ty I was from the Midwest and I grew up on a farm and enjoyed that part of the world,” said Brown. “They did a powerpoint presentation, and Ty wanted me to walk in the door and be the guy from Field of Dreams. I was waiting in the hallway, waiting on my cue to go in the door. Everyone was clapping and crying an hugging me. Ty's pitch really moved people that things can be done if you believe. They met with seed people and went ahead with this renewal project at the University.”
While many are inspired by Brown for his work on the Silver Screen, he feels the same about Ballou.
“Ty is such an inspiration to me for what he has done in business and with his son,” said Brown.
WIN ONE FOR THE HUSKIES
Ballou heard the experts on EPSN and other sports networks saying NIU did not deserve to be playing in a major college football bowl game. He turned to Brown again.
Brown has appeared in over 60 major movies and television shows including Thorn Birds, The Fall Guy, Twilight Zone, To Live and Die in L.A., Murder, She Wrote, E.R., Allie McBeal, Without a Trace, House M.D. and most recently was on CSI.
Brown and his wife, Laurie Lennon, started a website, www.thesuperlife.com and produce inspirational videos.
“Ty came up with the idea to spoof the 'Win One for the Gipper' scene, so I wrote a script and sent it to Ty,” said Brown. “I had a few friends who are actors help, we built a hospital set and got props together to make it look as much like the movie as we could. Ty saw it and he was thrilled. The original was longer and scary so we tightened it (to just over a minute) and made it funny.”
The video also spoofs Field of Dreams when Brown asks his famous question again, “Is this heaven?” But this time the answer isn't “No, it's Iowa,” the answer is “No, it's Northern Illinois.”
TWO PAGES MEANS TWO WEEKS
Brown never expected to be in high-demand as an actor when he received the script for Field of Dreams. His lines were on two pages of the huge script.
“I thought it was just a small part. I read the book by W.P. Kinsella, so I was aware of it. But I only had a few pages in the sript and didn't think anything of it,” said Brown. “Usually in a movie, one page of script is a minute of the movie and can be shot in a day or two. But this took two weeks.
“I think the director, Phil Robinson, was more aware how pivotal the scene was, they wanted it right after the sun set,” Brown continued. “We only had 15 minutes. So Kevin and I walking would do that for one day, then another day. Then, if the clouds were not the same, we'd shoot Kevin's close up and that's all we would have that day. We would do the seen everyday for two weeks until they got it. And if the light and clouds were not right, we would scrap what was filmed. It was meticulous because of the time of day, but I thought it had an affect of making it more special.”
Brown wrapped up the shooting and didn't think much of it. Until the screening.
“I'm sitting there watching this movie and thinking, 'Oh my God, this is all moving toward me!' The score was so amazing and moving and Phillip Robinson did a great job bringing it all together in that direction,” Brown continued. “I was pretty surprised ... I had no idea those few lines would be so important.”
STILL A TEAR-JERKER
Like most American's, Brown was with his friends watching football on Sunday. As they flipped through the channels, sure enough, one of the stations was showing Field of Dreams.
The good-natured ribbing and joking started. They started picking on Brown as the movie stayed on the screen. Suddenly, the remote was laid to rest. The sounds of snacking and sarcasm turned to silence.
Until Kevin Costner's character asks Brown if they can have a catch.
“I got choked up!” said Brown. “Everything got quiet and the breathing got sporadic. I don't watch the movie often, but I can't believe I get teary-eyed when I see a scene I know I acted out ... I really think the score, Kinsella's great writing and Phil's amazing adaptation carries the emotions far beyond what I expected.”
In a movie full of magic, the character Doc Graham crossing the line and aging just to save a girl, or James Earl Jones giggling, going into the corn field to join the players in “heaven,” Brown's scene and lines steal the show.
“I will work all day outside and run to the supermarket. I look terrible and I'm 25 years older yet people look at me and recognize me as the father,” said Brown. “Thanks to the brilliance of the movie makers, my face is indelible to the people in their minds. I am always amazed.”
He also also amazed by the hundreds of stories he has heard over the years.
“The movie has changed lives,” he said. “People have told me amazing circumstances, like changing their occupation. Some who had not talked to their father in years broke the silence by grabbing them and saying, 'Let's go watch this movie' and repaired their relationship.
“That ... is what film making is capable of,” Brown added.
(John Anderson is a regional editor for Gatehouse Media in New York. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)