by Luke Hickman
It can be difficult participating in interviews and promotions for films that I'm passionate about. There's a fine line between fan and professional. 'The Sandlot' is one of the top three films my family took to in my childhood – the other two being 'The Goonies' and 'Hook.'
I'll never forget the first time that I saw 'The Sandlot.' At the age of 12, I had just finished reading the non-fiction book 'Alive' about the plane crash in the Andes that left the survivors eating the dead bodies for survival. I somehow talked my mom into taking me to see the movie adaptation in theaters, which soon proved to be an awful idea. The plane crash was far too intense for my pre-teen mind, so she took me out of the theater, we got a refund and walked into the most kid-friendly movie playing so 'Alive' could be stripped from my mind. What did we see? 'The Sandlot.' That was it. From then on we were hooked. We went back to theaters a few days later to share it with my dad and siblings. That was all it took.
20 years after the film's release, writer/director David Mickey Evans and the cast are taking the show on the road. They've already been touring for a couple months and have a couple more to go. For the city where the film was shot, Salt Lake City, Utah, the events were given a little extra oomph. The actors who played Ham, Squints, Yeah-Yeah, Timmy and Tommy Timmons, and Squints' police chief grandfather all showed up for the event. Night #1 was held at the Spring Mobile Ballpark where Salt Lake City's minor league team, The Bee's, played a game. The cast threw the opening pitches – with "Ham" catching, of course – then headed to the concourse to meet fans, sign autographs and take pictures. This task kept them busy for the entire game. Following the game, there was a screening of the film in the ballpark.
Night #2 was held in the actual sand lot where the film was shot. Rebuilt and decorated to look how it does in the film, the evening started with a carnival, followed by a Q&A, the dedication of a monument and a screening of the movie in the exact place where it was filmed.
For me, Day #1 was an all-day event. Most of the gang came by the Salt Lake City radio station where I give my on-air Tuesday morning Blu-ray reports and Friday morning theatrical release reviews. Halfway through the day, before heading to the ballpark for the press events, game and screening, I had the chance to speak with David Mickey Evans and Daniel Zacapa, the actor who plays Squints' grandfather.
HDD – Luke Hickman: Hello!
David Mickey Evans: Hi, Luke! I'm David Mickey Evans –
Daniel Zacapa: – and I'm Daniel Zacapa.
HDD: Thanks for joining me. It's nice because – unlike most interviews that I get to do, which are over the phone – I got to meet you guys in person while doing the radio show this morning.
David Mickey Evans: Right?! It's nice talking with you again.
HDD: Thanks! I've got to tell you – I'm really excited for this 20th anniversary event. I'm going to gush, so forgive me. David, I'm sure you get this from a lot of folks, but 'The Sandlot' is one of those movies that I view as my family's movie. Do you hear these stories often?
David Mickey Evans: I've heard about twenty thousand of them over the last few months.
HDD: Then I'll spare you from hearing my family's story. It has highly affected my life and the lives of my family members. How has it affected yours?
David Mickey Evans: I don't know what my life would have been like had I not made this movie. There's not a day that's gone by in the last two decades that it hasn't had some sort of positive effect of me – even if it's just passing someone in the street or in the airport that's quoting one of the lines to their kids or friends. In the terms of my career, the fact that 'The Sandlot' has become this timeless classic – I've heard it deemed the best baseball movie of all time and the best summer movie of all time. All of the accolades are great and I'm incredibly grateful for them. What I've learned on this tour over the last two and a half months is that it isn't just that people like the movie – or love the movie – it's that it has great meaning to them. Like you just said, it means something to their families. I had a woman in Trenton, New Jersey – in Arm & Hammer Park – tell me that it's like the kids in the movie are her children's brothers. I have a lot of favorite films, but there's not a film that I could say something that intimate and that meaningfully personal about. That was a surprise to me. I didn't know that. As I've come to learn that, it's incredibly humbling and I'm very grateful for it.
Daniel Zacapa: As an actor, to have delivered one of so many famous lines that are quoted – like for a co-worker to say to another, "You're killing me, Smalls" – my line was, "For-ev-ver" – it's part of the lexicon.
David Mickey Evans: Like, "Heroes get remembered, but legends never die."
Daniel Zacapa: "You play baseball like a girl!."
David Mickey Evans: "Squints was pervin' a dish."
David Mickey Evans: And there's the cuss-out stuff between Ham and the little league kid. You hear that stuff all of the time.
HDD: I'd say that over the last 20 years since I saw this movie with my family – and this extends outside the family too – I've never heard anyone talk about s'mores without someone saying, "S'more of what?"
David Mickey Evans: (laughs) That's perfect! Exactly!
HDD: David, while researching for this interview, I read on IMDb that Fox reportedly paid $1 million for your screenplay. If that's true, then they obviously smelled a hit. Did you have any idea what you had in your hands?
David Mickey Evans: Actually, you'll never want to trust IMDb all that much because it's about the most error-written website on the face of the Earth. Fox did not buy the screenplay. Island World did and it was for substantially more than what you just said.
David Mickey Evans: Oh, yeah. The movie was financed and made it as an independent with Island World – which doesn't exist anymore – and then the movie, as we were making it, was purchased as a negative pickup by Fox because they loved the dailies and when we cut it together, they just flipped out. All of the marketing people that were there at the time literally came by my office and personally thanked me for giving them a film that they, for the first time in their careers – so they said – were genuinely passionate about marketing and coming up with ideas for. And I think they knocked that stuff out of the park – not to by punny – but they did.
HDD: (laughs) How much of your own childhood is infused into the story? Were you a kid baseball player?
David Mickey Evans: I was definitely a kid baseball player and I was a really good kid baseball player. The best way to answer that question is to reference something – Walt Disney finished Disneyland in 1955. It took him one year and a day to finish construction of the park. They said it couldn't be done. And he was walking a bunch of dignitaries down Main Street, U.S.A. and a guy was looking at the great 1800s and 1900s shops and said to Walt, "Boy, Walt, you really nailed it. This is exactly the way it was." And Disney said to the guy, "No, it's the way it should have been." Now, 'The Sandlot' is not my childhood, but it's the way that I wanted my childhood to have been. In my childhood, I and my brother got beat up all the time. Having said that, none of these boys [in the movie] was any boy that I ever knew and all of these boys are every boy that I ever knew. Any writer is going to tell you that they're in every word and in every line and in every character, so on that note, yes – it's all me and my memories. But if I had to say, it's a big group of kids that beat us up all the time that ultimately viewed us as heroes when my little brother jumped a fence to get a baseball in this ridiculous incident and was bitten by a dog names Hercules. That's about it. The rest of it is – how should I say this – indescribably hard work.
HDD: How about the shenanigans that the gang gets into? Was there a Squints kid who faked his own drowning to steal a kiss from a Wendy Peffercorn? Did any of those wild events really happen?
David Mickey Evans: No. No. No. When I was a kid, we were really poor. If you wanted to do something during the summer, you could go to one of the public pools in Los Angeles county. And that's where we went every day during the summer because it was like a quarter or fifty cents to get in all day long, so if you picked up a couple of pop bottles, you had enough money to occupy yourself and go swimming all day on hot San Fernando Valley days. Now, all of the lifeguards at those pools were usually high school students and half of them, at least, were beautiful blonde girls who wore those one-piece red bathing suits – I remember that very clearly – and there was one of them whose name I only recall as having been Bunny and everybody always literally and physically looked up at Bunny.
(laughs all around)
David Mickey Evans: She was on a pedestal. That's what it was. I thought, 'What would be the ultimate sort of – if I could go back in time and pull out all of the stops – it would be faking my own drowning death in order to get a kiss from her.'
(even more laughs all around)
David Mickey Evans: That's where that came from.
HDD: That's great. Ok. You've got these 20th anniversary events that you've been on the road with for over two months now. You have two more months to go. What can people expect from these events?
David Mickey Evans: The number one thing is that you get to see 'The Sandlot' in its natural habitat – a baseball stadium, usually on a nice jumbo-tron. You get to have that nostalgic, almost drive-in movie, experience with all of the other fans that love the movie. I'm at every single one of them and many members of the cast come and go. I'm fortunate tonight to have six of the guys there. This is the most that I've ever had at one event – which is incredibly special because it's in Salt Lake City where the movie was made. We do trivia contests, a Q&A, we're signing autographs and taking pictures. We'll be up in the concourse with a bunch of tables selling posters, mini-posters, copies of the original script, t-shirts, Blu-rays. The fans can come up and we'll be there gratefully and graciously signing them until the last person leaves. In short, it's just a gigantic 'Sandlot' lovefest.
Daniel Zacapa: And I brought not only my Chief of Police cap and glasses, but another so that you can put them on and have pictures taken with me.
HDD: Great! Have you guys been back to the actual sand lot where you filmed the film yet?
David Mickey Evans: I was there yesterday morning and that was – with the exception of walking onto 'The Sandlot' set 20 years ago – one of the most special moments that I can remember. I got choked up. I've come to understand how much it means to people. It was at least as meaningful walking on it this time as it was last time, so it was quite awesome.
HDD: Have you seen most of the cast so far?
David Mickey Evans: I think that the only ones that I have not seen are Mike Vitar, Brandon Quintin Adams and Grant Gelts – that would be Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, Kenny DeNunez and Bertram Grover Weeks. Those are the only ones that I haven't physically seen.
HDD: I understand that tomorrow they're doing an actual event at the lot where the movie was filmed and something is going to be dedicated to the honor of 'The Sandlot.'
David Mickey Evans: That's right. We'll be at the Sandlot and the movie is getting its own historical marker. It's absolutely elegant and beautifully black quite large monument with an etched photo of the kids into this awesome metal alloy – I'm not sure what metal it is – and some words about it being the greatest baseball movie of all time and that "in this land in 1993..." and so on about the production. There will be dedication with a lot of dignitaries and people that make a big difference in the Salt Lake community. I'll be there. All of the guys will be there. It's going to be – other than an Academy Award, and quite frankly I think that this is a bigger deal, how many films have a historical marker? I can't think of one. It's an indescribably honor. We're going to have a carnival. There are going to be a ton of people there. The Salt Lake Bee's are going to run a little league baseball clinic for some local little league teams. And we're going to actually show 'The Sandlot' on the sandlot. It is literally more than a dream come true.
HDD: Thanks, David. Daniel, you've had roles in lots of well-known movies and series - 'Se7en,' 'Weeds,' 'Seinfeld,' 'CSI.' Let's pretend that David's not listening. Where do you rank 'The Sandlot' in your list of credentials?
Daniel Zacapa: Truly, it's right at the top. I've aged pretty well -
David Mickey Evans: Who are you fooling? You haven't aged well!
(laughs all around)
Daniel Zacapa: I'm recognized. I have people of all ages come up to me. I airports I'll hear a father say, "When I was a kid, my dad would say, 'If you don't clean up that room, you're going to be in there for-ev-ver!'" I get asked for more autographs from 'Sandlot' fans than any other movie. I've been in several television series – this last one on ABC – but 'The Sandlot' is truly the best ever. This is truly a remarkable gift from the movie gods. And my friendship with David began here, right?
David Mickey Evans: Indeed.
HDD: Daniel, what are you working on now? What's next for you?
Daniel Zacapa: I leave in two weeks for the most dangerous country in the western hemisphere – my home country – to shoot in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where my mother was born. God bless her, she passed away a couple of years ago, so it's going to be a weird thing. We're shooting what's going to be the comedy hit of 2014, 'The Search Party.' It's a $17 million picture for Universal and it's going to be great. I'm going to be in the funniest scene in the movie. And also in theaters over the next couple of months, I'm in a movie called 'Frontera' where I play Eva Longoria's father and I have one scene with the awesome Ed Harris. It also stars Michael Peña.
HDD: Very cool. David, what are you doing next?
David Mickey Evans: Flipping burgers.
(laughs all around)
David Mickey Evans: I'm kidding. I've got another couple of months on this tour, and then I have two indie pictures – one I'm going to shoot in Atlanta and one that I'm going to shoot in Los Angeles. After that I have five or six things lined up that I may have to push because I just finished the script for the movie that is going to be the first made from the great Matt Christopher sports series of books for kids – if you remember those. There are between 100 and 130 of them the very first one that I was hired to write and direct is 'The Kid Who Only Hit Homers.' There will be that one and hopefully the three that come after that. There's a franchise and a brand on its own right there. I've got a picture that I wrote specifically to star Peter Fonda that's getting financed right now. I've got a picture that shoots in Hawaii, a father/son drama. I have an epic western that I very well may come back to Utah to shoot. It's kind of an expensive picture. And aside from all of that, I bang my head against a computer every day, I go fishing and I train my German Shepherd.
HDD: I thank you guys and look forward to seeing you at the ball game a little later this afternoon.
David Mickey Evans: Awesome. We look forward to it.
Daniel Zacapa: Thanks, man!