Dwier Brown is an accomplished actor best known for his role as John, Ray Kinsella’s father, in the classic movie “Field of Dreams.”
To commemorate the film — and the August 12 game between the White Sox and Yankees in Dyersville, Iowa, on the site of the movie’s shooting location — Brown has teamed up with PLB Sports and Entertainment to launch a limited edition “Field of Dreams” cereal.
The cereal will be sold exclusively at Hy-Vee stores across the Midwest beginning July 26. It is also currently available online at PLBSE.com. A portion of each sale benefits Comfort Zone Camp, a nonprofit bereavement organization that transforms the lives of children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver.
Sports Section sat down with Brown to discuss filming “Field of Dreams,” the impact it’s had on him as well as moviegoers, his iconic scene with Kevin Costner, and much more.
SPORTS SECTION: You’re on the cover of a cereal box — that’s something that doesn’t happen every day.
BROWN: I’m pretty excited about it. I got approached by this company about doing a “Field of Dreams” cereal, and I was of course flattered. It’s a childhood dream to be on the cover of a cereal box. They agreed to use a charity that I have been supporting called the Comfort Zone Camp.
We started this three years ago, and then because of COVID we had to put it on the backburner, and now it’s finally coming up. I’ve always loved Dyersville, I’ve been back probably a couple dozen times over the years, and I’m very excited to see the game.
Why is Comfort Zone Camp so meaningful to you?
I just love the idea that kids who have lost a parent, sibling or primary caregiver have a place that they can go to process that incredibly difficult change to their lives.
It’s a shock to your system and a sense of loss that can’t easily be imagined by people who have never experienced it. So I love the idea that they started these camps, and now many of the people who went to the camp as a young person trying to deal with their own grief have stayed on and are counselors.
An innately human and wonderful concept is that we all help each other out. And it reminded me so much of what happens in the movie, with that true kind of a magical voice and vision. Someone gets to heal a relationship that they somehow botched or misunderstood when everybody was still alive.
What are your fondest memories about filming “Field of Dreams”?
I’ve been in hundreds of films and television shows and plays, and it was from start to finish just the most pleasurable experience.
Movies aren’t as glamorous as they are perceived. They sometimes can be a real pain to shoot, and although “Field of Dreams” was a difficult shoot — mostly because of a drought that kept the corn from growing, making it a headache for the producers — it was magical for the rest of us. I grew up on a farm in Ohio, so getting to shoot a movie on a farm in Iowa was like a little piece of heaven for me.
And obviously, it’s a great cast. I was a big fan of Burt Lancaster growing up, and James Earl Jones is really an actor’s actor who I think anybody would be thrilled to be in a movie with. And of course, Kevin Costner was on the rise, Ray Liotta is just fantastically interesting, and Timothy Busfield is hilarious.
So it was this great group of people and because we were in the middle of nowhere in Iowa, we didn’t have much else to do other than hang out with each other. That was kind of fantastic.
One of my most prized memories was arriving to do the movie and driving down that long driveway, seeing that beautiful baseball field in the middle of the cornfield next to this beautiful farm. It sent chills down my spine. It was just beautiful and simple in the most profound way.
And we had a ton of fun playing baseball on the field between takes. We had a great time.
When you were filming, did you know you were making something special?
In my experience, it’s very hard to predict how a movie’s going to do. I’ve been in movies that were just the funniest process of shooting that just didn’t end up gelling somehow.
While we were shooting, it was called “Shoeless Joe,” based on the book, and at the time, baseball movies were pariahs. “Eight Men Out” and “Bull Durham” were shot the year before ours but hadn’t come out, so there was no track record.
Most baseball movies had been dismal failures at the box office, and this movie has no sex, no violence, no cursing or love story, really. It didn’t have any of the things that people would attribute to a movie that we’d still be talking about 33 years later.
I just did it because it was such a beautiful script and so poetic and emotional and beautiful, but I really did not expect that anybody would go see the movie.
Universal released it to, I think, four theaters across the country originally thinking it would bomb out and then they’d have an excuse to take it out of theaters and put it on video. A year-and-a-half later, it was in like 1600 theaters.
What kind of impact did filming the movie have on your life?
The thing that was kind of weird about the whole thing is, I got cast in the movie in L.A. and I was going to go to Iowa to shoot the movie, but I took the opportunity to go visit my folks on their farm in Ohio first. I stopped in Ohio and the day I got there, my dad was in the hospital, and unexpectedly he ended up dying that night. So I got to talk to him and essentially be at his deathbed.
I ended up leaving Ohio and going straight to Iowa, leaving my dad’s funeral and going to play a dead father returning from a cornfield to play catch with his son. So it certainly made that whole experience much more emotionally difficult for me.
I took my dad’s childhood baseball mitt with me to try to get it in the movie, but unfortunately, because I played a catcher, they gave me a catcher’s mitt.
When did you realize it had such an impact on moviegoers?
I did a whole bunch of movies for maybe a dozen years in Hollywood and rarely got recognized on the street. Suddenly, just within a month or two of the movie coming out, people were recognizing me.
They would get very quiet and sometimes you’d see tears forming in their eyes and they’d tell me some incredible story of how they’d been feuding with their dads for 20 years and hadn’t spoken a word to him, and when they saw that movie they went to their dad’s house and dragged him to see it, and they would cry together and get over their differences.
That just touched me so deeply. I would end up crying with these people or hugging them in an airport or in a grocery store, wherever they happened to have found me. And I thought, “Wow, how weird is this? Why me? I was in this movie for five minutes at the end.”
If you run into Kevin Costner or James Earl Jones you have a dozen movies that you want to talk to them about. But this is the one that they remember me from despite how small the part is.
I got into acting to do something that I love to do that made a difference in people’s lives, so it was profound for me as well. And then when I ended up deciding to write a book (“If You Build It … A book about fathers, faith and Field of Dreams”) about it I had these notes to draw upon.
My only regret about the whole movie was that I didn’t get to watch it with my dad. And I realized that these people coming up to me over the years have been my way of getting my dad’s approval or kind of keeping him alive in my heart, because anytime anybody comes and tells me about some fantastic story they have about their dad, it makes me think of my own.
I watched your scene a few minutes ago and midway through I told myself I had to call my dad…
What a beautiful thing. What a beautiful thing for a movie to do. I think that’s great.
Do you have people come up to you asking, “Do you wanna have a catch?”
Oh, yeah, totally. And I enjoy it. Movies very rarely realize their incredible potential. I have so far not tired of actually having a catch with people or hearing the catch phrases from the movie over and over.
I was lucky enough to start out in this business and do something that I had loved as a child and got to do it for 45 years, and then be remembered for this one part that has such a profound influence in people’s lives. It’s just kind of great, you know?
Did you play baseball growing up?
I played baseball on the farm. Sports were the one thing we could get out of farm work for, so my brother and I played sports year-round.
I tried out for my freshmen high school baseball team and got cut. My joke now is that for all those guys who made the team, it’s my picture that’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so I guess I win in the long run.
You were also in “The Cutting Edge,” a movie about figure skating. Did you have to get on the ice for that one?
I didn’t have to do any skating because I just played sort of a jerk boyfriend of Moira Kelly. There was one scene where I was supposed to go on the ice in street shoes and slip all over the place and fall down, but unfortunately, they cut that from the final movie, so I didn’t even get to do that.
What’s next for you?
Other than the cereal coming out, I also bought an old building in Dyersville, Iowa, where the movie was shot. It’s a city landmark that was kind of falling down and was going to have to be demolished.
So I ended up buying this old building from 1860 that used to be a brewery and an iron building, and we’re in the process of renovating it. So I have my own little “Field of Dreams” vision that I’m trying to create right there in Dyersville.
Chris Kuc is a sportswriter who covered a myriad of sports during his career with the Chicago Tribune, The Athletic, and the Chicago Blackhawks before joining Sports Section. You can reach out to Chris at Chris.Kuc@thesportssection.com or on Twitter: @ChrisKuc.