If you build up the courage to approach Dwier Brown, it may still feel as if you’re about to have some kind of out-of-body experience.
The actor who played John Kinsella along side Shoeless Joe Jackson and a host of other baseball ghosts in the 1989 classic “Field of Dreams” may have only had about five minutes of screen time — most of it in the final poignant dialogue before having a catch with his son, played by Kevin Costner, as the sun set in an Iowa cornfield.
Yet, that scene remains as golden as few others do, 25 years later, especially on Father’s Day.
As Brown has discovered, people who meet him today go through almost the same routine: They think they know him, they finally recognize him and the role he played, then they have a story to tell him about their own relationship with their dad. Sometimes, it gets pretty emotional.
“They are like confessions,” says the 55-year-old Brown, who looks pretty near the same now as he did as when he was 30, “and I start to feel like a priest when those moments happen.”
Through that process, Brown added those kind of personal stories into his new autobiography, “If You Build It … A Book about Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams” (Elsie Jean Books, 261 pages, $18.95), interspersed with revealing memories about his own father who died just a month before Brown made the film.
Little known fact: The catcher’s mitt that Brown uses in the movie belonged to his dad. He brought it as a tribute to him.
On this Father’s Day weekend, more than 5,000 are expected to converge Dyersville, Iowa for a “Field of Dreams” reunion that included a movie screening Friday night, celebrity games on Saturday and Q-and-A’s hosted by NBC’s Bob Costas and Matt Lauer. Before Brown left his home in Ojai with his 15-year-old son Woody to attend the festivities, he gave us some insights behind the cathartic experience he had in writing the book:
Q: Does Father’s Day have a new, fresh meaning for you after going through this process – remembering your dad, having two kids of your own (including 21-year-old daughter Lily), going back to Iowa?
A: I guess it really reminds me how precious this time is. My father died suddenly, as I wrote about, and I hope the book will make people appreciate that relationship while it is still here. I had the good fortune of making good in my relationship with my dad after some difficult times but I think a lot of people don’t get that opportunity. I would have been hard-pressed if I hadn’t been able to do that with my dad, to make amends and all that. This whole process has been a little harder for me to see as a father. I was very confident in my role as a son and in my dad’s ability to be a dad, but the job description is rife with self-doubt. My son is a great kid, good grades, very funny, but there are so many times I want to tell him: Just don’t make that mistake, I can save you the grief of that, you know? Maybe my father is gone but I know I’ll be thinking of him while we’re at the field in Iowa.
I did get to tell him as he was dying what a great dad he was, and fortunately I was at that age, 29, when you’re done sowing your wild oats and fighting your oedipal battles and then you see the wisdom. I mean, my dad was really a great dad, particularly considering how poorly his dad had done with him. He really put forth the effort and succeeded and I regret somewhat I was so hard on him during those years. I wish I could have had more time to re-enforce how good a father he was. I could have done with another 15 or 20 years of patting him on the back. You feel like Father’s Days are going to go on forever. People from my dad’s generation, they were so sturdy and constant, then he’s gone in an instant. You can’t imagine that happening until it does. And then it’s too late. For people whose fathers are still around, say those things and do those things that may seem awkward or uncomfortable because you’ll be grateful you did. You know, we all pass on. No matter how many years you get, you’ll never say, ‘Gosh, I hugged him too much’ or ‘I told him I loved him too much.’
Q: You had the presence of mind to bring your dad’s mitt with you when you did “Field of Dreams.” Would you have done that anyway had he not passed away so near that day?
A: You know, I don’t know if I would have. Obviously I was emotionally wrought at that time. The thing that was strange to me, I wasn’t feeling grief. It was more on some level my dad had been released and I had just felt him around so much. I have a feeling that was motivated by the fact it was my carrying him to the field. … I wish there was that magical thing where you slip on your dad’s mitt and know who he is, where he’s coming from and what he’s trying to convey to you so you don’t have to go through all that head-butting stuff that all boys and their fathers tend to go through. Continue reading