Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Addendum to recasting--Part V (1992): "A League of Their Own"

I 'officially' end this thirteen month-long project with the 1992 sports comedy-drama, A League of Their Own. All I seem to think about when referencing this movie is summer. It's incredibly nostalgic for me that way, as I've grown up as a fan of Major League Baseball, and this film captured the sort of old-timey and even rural appeal of America's favorite pastime. That definitely hit home for me as a twelve year-old living across the street from a corn field fifty miles outside Minneapolis. 

I've wondered for some time how Meryl would fare in a film for which she had to perform some kind of athletic event. We've seen in a physical role like The River Wild, but never in something that required the specific kind of coordination necessary for a sport like baseball. I've read that Meryl is actually very athletic. Some of her Yale classmates have remarked how she was always good at everything, including sports. I have to admit that I can kind of see it. She seems to have a great sense and control of her physicality, and that often translates into athletic performance. Director Penny Marshall specifically sought out actresses who could be passable as adept ball players. She apparently denied several very good actors roles because they simply sucked at the sport. It was a real standard she held, and it shows in the film's cast. 

The uncertainty of Meryl's baseball abilities isn't the only obstacle to picturing her potentially being suitable for the lead role originated by Geena Davis. Streep would've been 42 when this movie filmed. The majority of the remainder of the cast was a decade younger. But similar to my post last week on The Silence of the Lambs, I'd like to make a reasonable argument for how it may have worked in regard to Meryl's age--and I don't think it means ageing up the character of Dottie Hinson.  

It's widely known that Debra Winger was all set to play the role of Hinson. Some accounts attest her dropping out a couple of weeks before shooting to a back injury. But director Penny Marshall has gone on record saying that Winger didn't want to be a part of the film after Madonna was cast. She apparently thought Madonna's participation would turn the production into a circus. Incidentally, Winger was also a replacement for Demi Moore, who dropped out after she became pregnant. Geena Davis stepped in last minute, and after an audition (which was mostly about seeing whether or not Davis could "play"), was cast. She had very little time to prepare before shooting began. 

So let's imagine there had been some connection with Meryl. She had given birth to the last of her four children in early June 1991. There's no way she would've ever planned to film something that summer. But what if in this situation, she had somehow learned of Winger's departure, had been sent the script, and really felt like doing it. Something that would be a big physical challenge postpartum. A role that, on paper, was expected to go to someone in her twenties or early thirties. It would've been a fairly impulsive move at that stage. But the draw of a big hit might've been lure enough. Couple that with a shooting schedule that may have reasonably started late summer. A twelve week maternity leave would've put that at the first week of September. Not too crazy to imagine. And Winger was less than six years younger than Meryl (Davis seven), so I expect that our disbelief could probably have been suspended. 

What's interesting about the age thing is that the character of Dottie, to me, always seems so much the big sister and much more the contemporary of Tom Hanks's character. Davis of course fits that perfectly and played it well. But it might be even more believable with Meryl in that role. Perhaps more a thread of the elder sister who too has had dreams deferred on a rural farm with a husband fighting in World War II. There are some elements that could add layers to the complexity of the character. Her age, as a sort of matronly figure among the younger girls in the league, could be played up to greater contrast. And maybe near the end where Dottie mentions that she and Bob "want to have kids," what if the line were simply changed to "want to try having kids again?" There's a general undertone of melancholy enveloping Dottie's character. A mixture of her worry about the safety of her husband, and her strong, yet seemingly stifled desire to participate in the league. She's of a personality that finds it abhorrent to demonstrate any sense of vanity, even though she's both the best player and the prettiest. As a small aside, I think Streep and Lori Petty pass much more easily as sisters than do Petty and either Debra Winger or Geena Davis.


With this last film in my recasting addendum, we have seen consecutive roles in a television miniseries, a sci-fi action flick, an epic Western, a psychological horror/thriller, and a sports dramedy. Two are contemporary settings, two are period pieces, and one takes place in the future. Not a bad quintet of varied roles and genres. 

I've mentioned over the course of this project that I plan to do the same thing for supporting roles. I'm just not sure when I'll start that, exactly. I also fully expect to continue my list of recasted lead roles for each year in the future. For now, however, I look forward to focusing a bit more of the blog on Streep's upcoming project(s), and of course speculating on what else she might have in store for us in the coming months. Thanks again to everyone who's read and contributed to this very fun series over the past year!

No comments:

Post a Comment