'Field Of Dreams' Actor Reflects On Father-Son Relationships

Download Audio
Actor Dwier Brown in the iconic final scene of the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams."
Actor Dwier Brown in the iconic final scene of the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams."

"Build it, and they will come."

That was the mantra of the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams" based on the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella.

If you read the book or saw the movie, you know that it's about the courage to dream. It's also about reconciliation between father and son.

That theme was caught poignantly at the very end of the move when a dead former baseball player returns to a corn field in Iowa to reconnect with his son, the protagonist, played by Kevin Costner.

That final scene of a father and son playing catch tugged at the heartstrings of millions of viewers. And it provided a kind of minor but lasting fame for actor Dwier Brown, who portrayed the late baseball-player-father of Kevin Costner's character.


Dwier Brown, actor in the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams." Author of the memoir, "If You Build It... A book About Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams." Brown will be at Fenway Park Sunday for a special screening of "Field of Dreams" after a minor league game between the Lowell Spinners and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He tweets @DwierBrown.


On how the role has changed his life:
Dwier Brown: "People would come up... just randomly. I’ll be in a tire store or I’ll be camping with a three-day beard growth and I can’t imagine how people recognize me. I don’t even think my own mother would recognize me. They would get very serious and sometimes they would say, 'I haven’t spoken to my dad in 15 years, and when I saw that movie, I went and grabbed him and we watched the movie together and we were just able to let go of this long-standing animosity we had towards each other... I’ve got a relationship with my dad, thanks to you...' I felt like a priest... I would just nod my head and show I was listening to them and they would sometimes get very emotional and I would end up hugging them. I didn’t have them do a 'Hail Mary' or any sort of penance. But these people for whom the movie has struck such deep a chord, they have indelibly placed my face in their grey matter and want to tell me their stories."

On the personal relationship with his father:
DB: "My dad was a great dad, but there was always something about him that it sort of felt like he wasn’t present. I never understood why my dad didn’t talk about his father, he didn’t talk much about his family... I think, because of that, I sort of became an actor because I wanted to learn how to express myself. You know, I’m in family and I kept wanting more from acting. I wanted to know how to express emotion, I wanted to know how to do it each time and I wanted it to be real each time... In 1986, I’m stuck in a car with my father and it came out that his father sort of had an affair and abandoned the family... For me, suddenly the heavens opened. This was part of my father that he had kept from me — I resented that. But when I knew why he did it, it made me love him all the more. He didn’t want me to know anything about the deprivation that he had to suffer emotionally from his dad. He wanted to wipe that slate clean and start me fresh. Fortunately, I had that experience before he died. He ended up dying 30 days before I went to shoot that movie in Iowa."

On his connection with the movie:
DB: "It does seem strange to me that so many things in my personal life get mirrored in the movie, and maybe it added something to it... I think you can heal those relationships, you can make your peace, even if your dad’s not around anymore, or even if you’re not speaking to him. I think so much of the relationship we carry around is a product of decisions we’ve made... I think we can change our minds about those decisions, whether or not you ever really get the facts about why your dad was the way he was. I think everyone is trying to do the best they can."

On the resonance of "Field of Dreams":
DB: "Part of the reason that movie is so resonant is, as kids, we wish we hadn’t been hard on our fathers, the way my 15-year-old son is a little bit rough on me... We have regrets on both sides of the relationship, as sons toward our fathers and fathers toward our sons and daughters. It’s a shame when you carry around that animosity... and you don’t give yourself the opportunity to let that go and live your life fully... Even for those of us who had a good relationship with our fathers, much of that relationship was unspoken, or the context in which you could talk to your father was sports or baseball, and those softer feelings of love and affection and pride and gratitude frequently go unexpressed. That movie hit that chord so resonantly, whether you had a good relationship with your father or not."

This segment aired on July 3, 2015.


More from Radio Boston

Listen Live