April 21, 2021

“Field of Dreams” Changed Dwier Brown’s Life

December 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Dwier Brown during rehearsals for the famous scene in “Field of Dreams” when Kevin Costner, at right, asks him if he wants to have a catch. Director Phil Alden Robinson is at left.

As iconic moments go, it’s hard to beat the scene from Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner turns to Dwier Brown and, with the late James Horner’s Oscar-nominated score supplying the appropriately tearful mood, asks, “Hey Dad, you wanna have a catch?”

“I didn’t understand the profundity of it,” recalls Brown, who served as the keynote speaker this past September at a minor league promotional baseball seminar in Des Moines, Iowa. “I hadn’t at that point realized how important that scene was in terms of father and son relationships. I was delightfully naïve about it.”

Nearly three decades later, Brown gets it. And then some.

Brown’s 2014 book, If You Build It, which he wrote to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Field of Dreams, which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. chronicles the countless times over the years fans have stopped him at airports, movie theaters, campgrounds or at supermarkets and grocery stores to let him know how that movie moment changed their lives. The 264-page memoir is available through Amazon or via the actor’s own website, at www.dwierbrown.com.

Despite having acted in only a few movies and handful of television shows, most notably The Thorn Birds, Brown was plucked from relative obscurity to play Costner’s dead father, “John Kinsella.” Famously urged by a mysterious voice that tells him, “If you build it, he will come,” Costner plows under his cornfield to create the baseball diamond that he believes the voice wants him to build; he does that so the eight members of the infamous Chicago Black Sox team that threw the 1919 World Series, most notably, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, who were permanently banned from the game as a result, could be given another chance to play the national pastime.

The fantasy drama was selected in 2017 by the Library of Congress for preservation on the United States’ National Film Registry.

“To be in a movie as popular as this one was a reference point for me,” says Brown, who got the opportunity to work with Oscar-winning director William Friedkin — of The French Connection and The Exorcist fame – on his next film after Field of Dreams. “It had a currency all its own for me professionally.”

What is also interesting to note is how personally important the role was for Brown, whose own father passed away just before filming began at the famous Dyersville location that served as the fictitious Kinsella house and farm.

“I was very worried that, because of my own grief, I wouldn’t be able to speak the words in the scene,” reminisces Brown, who now is a parent himself. He has a 25-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son.

“Because his death was so unexpected,” explains Brown, “I don’t really remember associating it with the movie. The strange thing that happened to me then was that I didn’t feel anything at the time, because you’re too busy doing all the funeral stuff to distract you from the gravity of your loss.

“I truly couldn’t get over the feeling that he was watching me on the field,” continues Brown. “I told myself ‘I might as well just stay in this state of mind as long as I can, if that’s what helps me with the grieving process.’”

According to Brown, because his late father was a stoic man, father-son conversations filled with emotion were in short supply while he was growing up. Consequently, Brown says he can completely identify with Costner’s character, who observes in the movie that he knew his dad when “he was worn down by life.”

But there’s one moment in If You Build It where Brown recounts how he and his father finally healed their riff. Nearly three-quarters of the way into the memoir, Brown poignantly describes a car trip to a nearby creek where his father and he went skinny dipping.

Literally stripped bare of his undergarments, the elder Brown’s inhibitions were also stripped away too.

“My brother still doesn’t believe it occurred,” laughs Brown. “We had that incredible moment, and it meant so much to me.”

Brown returns to Iowa for Father’s Day weekend in June. He’ll celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary in Dyersville on Saturday, June 15 and go to Cedar Rapids on Sunday, June 16 to make an appearance at the Cedar Rapids Kernels game.

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