by Edwin L. Carpenter – Editor, The Dove Foundation
Director William Dear, born in Toronto in the forties, is known for his work as director of such family favorites as, Harry and the Hendersons (1987), the TV movie Journey to the Center of the Earth (1993) and the theatrical film Angels in the Outfield (1994) and on DVD, The Sandlot 3.
Now he has given us The Perfect Game, a film based on the book by W. William Winokur. It is based on a true story about a group of young boys from Monterrey, Mexico, who became the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series.
The film premieres April 16 and The Dove Foundation was fortunate enough to catch up with Mr. Dear for an interview just days before the film’s exciting release.
We kicked off the interview by asking Mr. Dear how he became involved in directing the movie.
“William Winokur, the fellow who wrote the book The Perfect Game and wrote the screenplay, had probably seen Angels in the Outfield, contacted me and I met with him. I read the screenplay and it was one of those movies–I don’t think since Angels in the Outfield–there hadn’t been a movie that sort of touched me inside the way this one did. I know that in Angels a lot of it had to do with the father–son thing, which was a parallel to something that had occurred in my life as a younger child. With this one it wasn’t just the father–son thing. It was that sense of accomplishment. Without sounding horrendously corny it was that great underdog story about following a dream and making something come of it.”
We asked Mr. Dear about his interesting choice of Cheech Marin who dynamically portrays Padre Estaban. He gives a vivid portrayal of the character of the padre who becomes an inspiration and mentor to the team.
“That was actually my first suggestion in casting. I know that Bill Winokur looked at me like, ‘Are you crazy?!’ I said, ‘No’ because we all think of Cheech and Chong from those early days but I knew Cheech had spent time on TV series and fancied himself quite a serious actor and is good at it. He takes his craft very serious as an actor and so I suggested Cheech and he said, ‘Why Cheech?’ And I said, ‘Because it’s against type’.”
Dear went on to say that he wanted to make this film as contemporary as possible and didn’t want the public to just perceive the film as a Mexican kid’s baseball movie and dismissing it for that reason.
“I thought one of our biggest challenges was to get this story out in front of people. We had to make it contemporary, not by changing the setting or the elements of the story but make it contemporary with some action and pizzazz that a film of today has, give it some casting that will say, ‘Hey, this isn’t what you think it is.’
“I remember in the film when Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr.) comes to the door of the church and he tells Cheech (Padre Estaban) that they’ve just been awarded the little league franchise, and I thought to myself, ‘Well, I could do something humorous with this.’ I was trying to do it in a way that would still be respectful to the church. I thought, ‘I’ll incorporate baseball signals for Clifton to relate to Cheech at the pulpit that the franchise deal had gone through.’ And it turns out to be a very humorous moment. As a filmmaker I thought that I could do this with the language of film as opposed to just saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got our franchise.’” Clifton makes the sign of the cross and then soon turns it into a baseball signal, letting the padre in on the fact that the franchise has been secured.
This scene and so many others work well in this film. In fact, we awarded this movie five Doves, our highest rating, for its excellent story telling and family friendly environment. As an example of the grit this team’s players displayed, one player cuts his foot on glass and his coach tells him he will not be able to play on that foot. “Then I will play on the other one,” the player replies. Dear and his crew were just as resilient as they had to make the film in thirty days.
On a personal level Mr. Dear said making the film “gave me a chance to do something I really believe in.” He wanted to make a good film and we at Dove know that he accomplished that goal. He also enjoyed working with his son on the film, Oliver Dear, the second unit director who headed up all the special effects of the movie. “When you see Monterey, the town with the smoking factories and the mountain, that’s all a painting he did and brought to life. He did the slowing of the baseballs in the air and all this stuff and again that ties into the father–son theme. There I am working with my son on a movie that I really believe in and he really believes in, so there were a lot of rewards.” He and his son appear in the film in a couple of cameos.
Dear concluded the interview by saying, “I like entertaining the audience. With the price of film and the inconvenience of going to a theater and all that, I want people to regard the experience as a good choice.”
Dear hopes as does The Dove Foundation that word of mouth will get people into the theaters to see this incredible family film. The movie is starting out as a small release and Dear said fighting to get screens against some of the large studios is a real difficult thing to achieve.
Dear is currently working feverishly, editing a film titled Politics of Love which is a romantic comedy “about a Barak Obama campaign organizer who falls in love with a McCain–Palin campaign organizer! It takes place during the last forty days of the election.” He is also working on a project called Crashing Vegas in which four kids assume the roles of their parents.
In the meantime, Mr. William Dear is pleased that The Perfect Game is finally in release, after a delay of a year and a half. We encourage our Dove film viewers to see this movie. You just might have a perfect moment at The Perfect Game, and Mr. Dear had you in mind when he made the film.
Here’s a link to Dove’s review of The Perfect Game