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Actor Dwier Brown portrayed John Kinsella, father of Kevin Costner’s character in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.”
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Actor Dwier Brown
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EDWARDSVILLE — When shooting 1989’s iconic “Field of Dreams,” the filmmakers faced a lack of what is arguably the main star of the film: the corn.
“It was the worst drought in Iowa that summer,” laughs actor Dwier Brown, who portrays John Kinsella, father of Kevin Costner’s character in the film. “The corn just wouldn’t grow. They ended up filming every other scene first, while waiting and hoping that it would get high enough.
“I don’t think the movie would have the same impact if the players were walking around in knee-high corn.”
The Friends of the Wildey are hosting two screenings of “Field of Dreams” at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville on Saturday, May 16 (3 p.m. and 7 p.m.). For both screenings, Dwier will be on hand to speak to the audience, answer questions and sign autographs.
He also will have copies of his book, “If You Build It … a Book About Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams,” available for purchase.
“I am enjoying this so much,” the 56-year-old actor tells me during our chat. “I love my part in the movie, but this book is all me and I feel like it really is my creative endeavor.
“I see the entire process of this book as like a game of catch with fans. We make this movie, telling its story, and then people all over the country tell me their own stories of reconciliation, and now this book shares those stories they have told. It really is a back and forth.”
“Field of Dreams,” based on the book “Shoeless Joe,” tells the story of Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (played by Costner), who interprets otherworldly voices to builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield. It is a tale of innocence, following one’s dreams and the often complex father-son dynamic.
The film touched the hearts of countless moviegoers and has become a classic in its genre, particularly the powerful final scene featuring Dwier.
“I didn’t see my role as that important in the script,” he says. “Then, a year after we filmed, the cast and crew attended a screening, and then it hit me. A lot of men in the room were crying; when we saw that last scene, I think the room was shocked at how emotional it was, which I also credit to the music score by James Horner.
“Field of Dreams is definitely the best thing on my resumé.”
Dwier was born in Pittsburgh and moved to an Ohio farm at the age of 8.
“Throughout my childhood I always did plays for fun, and I was also in plays in college. I really enjoyed it, but was told it was not something I could turn into a career.”
After college, he moved to Chicago, where he immersed himself in the world of improv and standup comedy (“Standup is the scariest thing you can do onstage,” he says. “You are completely on your own.”).
A move into drama produced roles in the 1982 television series “Chicago Story,” the 1983 miniseries “The Thorn Birds,” and other film appearances before he heard about the planned movie version of W.P. Kinsella’s book, “Shoeless Joe.”
“A friend of mine had fallen in love with the book and passed it on to me,” Dwier says. “I really liked it and was excited about the audition. I consider myself lucky.”
The actor says he has been surprised at the number of people who recognize him and want to open up with their own experiences.
“They share with me so many stories about their lives and how the movie caused many of them to reach out and heal relationships with their own dads,” he says. “I always assumed Kevin (Costner) or the director would be the ones getting that kind of attention, but I think people associate my face with that last scene and because it is so powerful, they feel a connection.”
Dwier began thinking about his relationship with his own father (“I was fortunate to have a fantastic dad”) and his own personal memories and anecdotes began weaving themselves into the stories he had compiled from fans of the film, culminating into a collection.
“Writing a book had always been in the back of my mind. Originally, I wanted to write a book from the perspective of Terrance Mann (portrayed by James Earl Jones in the film) and what he encountered in the cornfield.”
In “If You Build It…,” he also recounts his own sometimes comical experiences with baseball, including a perfect “0” batting average during one season of little league, and his own mother accidentally hitting a 5-year-old Dwier in the face with a baseball bat, requiring stitches.
“That is my own baseball career, and yet my picture is in the Baseball Hall of Fame,” he laughs. “I would call that one ironic twist.”
His book was released on Father’s Day last year, in time for the 25th anniversary of the film.
Becoming a father himself, Dwier was able to incorporate both sides into the book
“One of the hardest things was to write about myself as a father,” he says. “Being a parent, many times you don’t know you are failing at something until it is too late.
“Writing about my father was much easier. He was a strict, traditional Depression-era parent — not very expressive. When I got older, I understood the way he parented me, and I was lucky to learn that while he was still alive, because sometimes you don’t get a second chance to tell people you love them.”
Dwier’s own father died unexpectedly just 36 days before shooting began for “Field of Dreams.”
“It made filming that scene in the movie that much more emotionally charged for me,” he says.
Dwier lives in a small town outside of Hollywood with his wife of six years, Laurie. He has a 16-year-old son, Woodrow, and a daughter, Lily, who is graduating from college (where she is studying playwriting) this summer. He also has been involved in the formation of a theater company (Theater 150) as well as the Ojai Playwrights Conference, where writers can workshop their plays.
Right now, the book tour is a priority, and Dwier is just fine with that.
“I like doing these events. I will keep this up until the sun goes down or Mom calls us in for dinner.”