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Original Issue

Around the Bases with ...

42 writer-director Brian Helgeland

The Academy Award winner (for the screenplay of L.A. Confidential) reflects on the challenges of bringing an American icon to life on the screen.

On locations: Almost all the old stadiums are gone. We [shot at] Rickwood Field in Birmingham and Luther Williams Field in Macon, Ga., and [used] the bones of those stadiums to create our CGI world for Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds.

On the pressure of making a film about a landmark in history: The one other Jackie Robinson film was made in 1950 and, well, it starred Jackie Robinson. Except for some made-for-TV stuff there haven't been any movies, so we were anxious to get it right. People would say, "You're making another Jackie Robinson movie?" And then they'd stop and realize, "Wait. There hasn't been a Jackie Robinson movie."

On his research: I read maybe 30 books about the story and luckily for me, two people integral to the '47 season are still alive and sharp minded—Mrs. Robinson, Jackie's widow, and Dodgers starting pitcher Ralph Branca. They were helpful in confirming or dissuading me from some of the conclusions I had reached.

On the scenes he felt were the most crucial for accuracy: The games we showed were actual games, the at bats were actual at bats. When [Robinson] gets hit by that pitch, it's the actual game and the actual pitcher. Also the relationship he had with his wife usually falls by the wayside, but theirs was very strong, and it was how he got through the experience in a lot of ways.