Q&A: ‘The Sandlot’ hits 25: Director David Mickey Evans talks about the cult film’s effect
Amazingly, it’s been 25 years since the deeply nostalgic, 1962-set coming-of-age comedy “The Sandlot,” with its memorable band of baseball-centric tween boys and a fearsome English mastiff, first hit theater screens.
Although the movie, directed by David Mickey Evans (from a script by Evans and Robert Gunter), wasn’t considered a home run when released in 1993, repeated showings on cable TV and hefty rentals and sales on video and DVD turned “The Sandlot” into something of a cult classic. Its unique success generated a pair of direct-to-DVD sequels (released in 2005 and 2007) and built a cross-generational legion of devotees.
Case in point: To celebrate their love of all things “Sandlot,” the Milwaukee Brewers recently shot a video reenacting a key scene from the film, with players taking on different character roles — complete with costume design.
Think that YouTube-ready stunt sounds extreme? Not in “Sandlot” world. The New York Yankees shot their own homage to the movie in 2015, re-creating a different scene from the film.
We could talk for the next year and a half about all the times I’ve been in airports and heard moms and dads saying to their kids, ‘You’re killing me, Smalls!’
— David Mickey Evans
In honor of “The Sandlot’s” silver anniversary — and coinciding with the start of Major League Baseball season — 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released a special collector’s edition Blu-ray of the film.
The disc comes with custom baseball cards featuring the movie’s ragtag teammates, including Scotty, Benny, Yeah-Yeah, Squints, and Ham; behind-the-scenes photos from Evans’ personal archive and a newly designed film poster.
An enthusiastic Evans recently spoke from his Florida home about how the film came to be, how it earned its fervent following and if there’s any truth to the rumor of a “Sandlot” stage musical.
Prior to “The Sandlot,” you’d had a huge [$1.25 million] sale for your spec script of the youth drama-fantasy “Radio Flyer,” which you were also hired to direct. But soon after shooting started, you were replaced by Richard Donner. That must’ve been quite the roller-coaster ride for a relative newcomer.
I had one of the most profound baptisms by fire as a filmmaker in Hollywood because of “Radio Flyer.” The day I got fired off that picture I went home and remembered what I was told by a big-time Hollywood director: “Everyone in Hollywood gets a second chance, nobody gets a third. So if you get a second chance, you’d better make it work.”
So I went straight to my computer and typed on a new script page “The Boys of Summer,” which was the original title of “The Sandlot,” and started writing … based on this flash of an idea I’d had about an incident that happened in my childhood with me and my little brother.
What had you learned from the “Radio Flyer” experience that you brought to creating “The Sandlot?”
I knew in order to get another directing gig I had to come up with something very contained, that could all happen essentially in one place — ergo, “The Sandlot.” Still, only one guy in Hollywood agreed to purchase the screenplay and hire me to direct it: Mark Burg, who was with [now-defunct production company] Island World. [20th Century Fox eventually bought the movie.]
Were you happy with the theatrical release of the film?
Yes. They [Fox] did one of the finest marketing campaigns I’ve ever been involved with.
But the picture really took off after it left theaters.
The movie came out right at the heart of the VHS-Blockbuster Video-Hollywood Video [era]. Then VHS gave way to laser disc and laser disc went to DVD. There was also cable, of course, then subsequently the streaming services happened. The movie arrived at the right time, in technological terms, for distribution on all these new, expanding sorts of platforms.
Audience-wise, it doesn’t seem to matter who you are, where you came from or how you were raised — and I’ve been told this a million times by fans — people identify with the characters because they either were one of those characters or they see in those characters kids they wanted to be.
How would you say the film’s reputation and its fan base have grown and changed over time?
Well, it’s certainly grown, there’s no question about that. But has the fan base changed? I don’t think so. And I don’t want to say that everybody loves “The Sandlot,” but in 2013, when we went on our [20th-anniversary promotional] tour, the great majority of our fans were families. It’s always families, for the most part: moms and dads, their kids, grandparents. There’s just something about the film that touches the heart of families.
Have you ever been approached to do a “Sandlot” reboot or remake?
Recently, a young writer named Austin Reynolds sent me an idea for a “Sandlot” reboot and we’re actually going into Fox in the next month or so and saying, “Here’s how we do it. Here’s how we reboot the franchise and give it more life.” And I hope it works out.
Well, I guess if Netflix can reboot “Benji,” you can reboot “The Sandlot.”
Truer words were never spoken!
As its “parent,” what have been some of your proudest moments about being involved with the film?
We could talk for the next year and a half about all the times in my life when I’ve been in airports and heard moms and dads saying to their kids [“Sandlot” character Ham’s signature line], “You’re killing me, Smalls!”
Then there’s Kobe Bryant, one of my favorite athletes of all time, who a few years ago tweeted, “Fourth of July: ‘Sandlot’ in the backyard!” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” That was so awesome. [The actual 2013 tweet read: “Happy 4th! Burgers. Pool. The Sandlot. Fireworks. #USA #Family”]
Honest to God, literally it’s always just this massive love fest. I remain intensely grateful. All I can say is thank you, a billion times in a row.
I heard there’s been talk of a “Sandlot” stage musical. Confirm or deny!
I’ve gotten maybe 50 requests over the years, from local children’s theaters to people from off-Broadway, big Broadway people and all that for the musical rights. And I will tell you this: There will be a “Sandlot” musical. And I would not be surprised if this was this year, because of the 25th anniversary, that those decisions get made.
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