"Mickey" Begins Filming at Little League Headquarters
Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball (left) confers "on the set" with Lance Van Auken, Little League Director of Public Relations and Author John Grisham.
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Filming began today at Howard J. Lamade Stadium on a major motion picture starring Harry Connick Jr., with Little League Baseball playing a co-starring role. "Mickey" is an original screenplay written by best-selling author John Grisham, who played Little League Baseball in Southhaven, Miss., in the 1960s.
Most of "Mickey" has already been filmed in and around the Richmond, Petersburg and Charlottesville, Va., areas. The film crew will remain here for 11 days, then return in August to shoot extra scenes during the Little League Baseball World Series, Aug. 17-26.
Mr. Connick plays Tripp Spence, a widower who finds himself on the run with his 12-year-old son, Derrick, who is a baseball phenomenon. The film is directed by Hugh Wilson, director of "The First Wives Club," "Guarding Tess," "Blast from the Past," among other hits. "Mickey" is tentatively scheduled for release in early summer of 2002.
In "Mickey," Tripp Spence and Derrick decide to assume new identities and flee to Las Vegas, forcing Derrick (whose new name is Mickey), to forego his final year of eligibility in the Major Division of the local Little League in Virginia. But Mickey's new identity makes him a year younger, and he plays in the following year as a 12-year-old, believing that the fraud will end with the final game of the regular season.
They don't count on the fact that the league they've joined in Las Vegas is about to have a dream season, and its all-star team - led by Mickey - will have a chance to reach the pinnacle of youth sports: the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa. The Cuban government, the CIA and a U.S. senator are also involved in the tale.
Shawn Salinas ("All That," Nickelodeon), an actor/athlete from California, plays the title role. The role of Tony, Mickey's coach, is played by Mike Starr ("Dumb and Dumber," "Ed Wood," "Mad Dog and Glory," "On Deadly Ground" and "The Bodyguard"). Michelle Johnson ("Death Becomes Her," "Far and Away") plays the school principal where Mickey and his father end up in Las Vegas.
"Every dad who coaches his son dreams of just one more year of Little League. That's how the story of 'Mickey' began. It started as a book," Mr. Grisham, who is the world's best-selling author in the past 10 years, with more than 100 million books in print, said. "But the more I wrote the clearer the images became. The book turned into a movie."
Mr. Grisham's first novel, "A Time to Kill," was published in 1988 while he was a practicing attorney and a member of the Mississippi state legislature. His next novel, "The Firm," spent 47 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. It was made into a movie starring Tom Cruise, and the film became one of the biggest hits of 1993. "The Pelican Brief," starring Julia Roberts as a Tulane University law student, was released the following year and was another major hit. "The Client" and "The Chamber" enjoyed similar best-seller status, and in 1994 "The Client" became yet another hit film, this time with Susan Sarandon starring in a role that earned her an Oscar nomination.
John Grisham's "A Time to Kill," "The Rainmaker" and "The Chamber," also have been adapted for the big screen. "Mickey" will be his second original screenplay to be made into a movie. The first was "The Gingerbread Man" in 1998. His most recent best-selling novel, "A Painted House," is the story of 7-year-old Luke Chandler coming of age in rural Arkansas.
Mr. Wilson has directed several box office successes, but also is known from his days in television. He was the creator of "WKRP in Cincinnati," and wrote for the "The Bob Newhart Show." This is his first project with Mr. Grisham.
"I have always wanted to make a baseball movie," Mr. Wilson said. "John and I have known each other for some time, and when I read 'Mickey,' I knew this would be the one."
Harry Connick Jr., has played a tailgunner in "Memphis Belle," a college student in "Little Man Tate," a serial killer in "Copycat," a jet fighter pilot in "Independence Day," and a leading man/love interest in "Hope Floats." But he is best known for the musical sides to his personality: big band, New Orleans funk, classic American standards and jazz. He has numerous multi-platinum albums, is a Grammy Award winner and has been nominated for an Academy Award and an Emmy. He recently starred with Glenn Close in ABC's remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," as Lt. Joe Cable.
Several hundred extras from the area are expected for crowd scenes at Lamade Stadium over the next two weekends. Dozens of Central Pennsylvania residents have been cast in specialty extra roles, as well as several speaking parts. The current filming is scheduled to end around June 19. Only one other motion picture, "The Little Giants" in 1958, received permission to use the Little League trademarks. "The Little Giants" is the story of the Monterrey, Mexico, Little League team that won the Little League Baseball World Series title in 1957. The movie also was the last to be filmed substantially in the Williamsport area.
"We're pleased that Mr. Grisham wrote his screenplay with Little League Baseball as the backdrop," Mr. Keener said. "Little League rarely approves the use of its trademarks in films or on television. However, we believe that the positive moral message in 'Mickey,' as well as the outstanding reputation of Mr. Grisham, Mr. Wilson and the entire production company will reflect well on Little League."