Netflix premiered the film, Highwaymen, in mid-March at selected theatres for one week to make it eligible for the 2020 awards season, a curious requirement they had to fulfill before releasing it on their proprietary network on Friday, March 29th.
A true story, so far as any Hollywood production can be considered true, it tracks two de-commissioned Texas lawmen, Frank Hamer and Maney Gault who are pressed into service to track down and kill Bonnie and Clyde.
Played by Kevin Costner (Hamer) and Woody Harrelson (Gault), they prepare to ambush Bonnie and Clyde with the assistance of three local Louisiana lawmen. Utilizing basic police work, they deduce the couple’s next move. The young murderers meet their end in a hail of automatic, rifle and shotgun fire. The Highwaymen is a decent film, but way too long for my taste.
On Thursday, March 28th, I happened to be listening in to our local morning WABC radio show featuring Bernard McGurk and Sid Rosenberg when Costner joined them by phone for a pre-planned promotional interview for the movie.
We will never know, but I believe Sid drew the short straw as the boys knew Costner was only doing this to fulfill publicity requirements. As expected, Costner sounded noticeably disinterested and bored as the interview began. Rosenberg took a different approach that caught Costner totally off guard.
“Kevin, you have starred in a number of baseball movies like Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, but I have to tell you my favorite was For the Love of the Game.”
“Mine too.” Costner responded, his enthusiasm clearly building. Rosenberg, who has an ego the size of an elephant, wisely understood not to interrupt and let Costner continue:
“We spent two weeks filming in Yankee Stadium, but it almost never happened. Two or three days before we were supposed to start, I was told that George Steinbrenner, the Yankees principal owner, had nixed the deal and banned us from the ball park.”
“It was up to me to call Steinbrenner and settle the problem. I called him, we exchanged pleasantries before I asked him what was wrong?”
“He replied: ‘I don’t like your movie because the Yankees lose.’
“George,” I responded, “It’s true that our hero pitches a perfect game against the Yankees, but he is a diminished pitcher who is at the end of his career. Sure, he ends with a perfect game, but the Yankees had already clinched the pennant and would go on to win the World Series.”
“Hearing that Steinbrenner decided he loved the concept and gave us a green light to make the movie.”
Costner paused and continued: “You know, I have never told that story to any one else before, so I guess I have given you a big scoop.”
“Oh yeah, one more thing, as luck would have it, the Yankees won the World Series that same season and Steinbrenner sent me my own World Series Championship ring. I have never worn it, that would be inappropriate, but it’s my prized possession that I keep it with my valuables.”
Having never seen For the Love of the Game, I watched it on demand the following weekend. I found it to be only fair but an enjoyable baseball movie. However, I discovered that Costner wasn’t completely honest with Steinbrenner. When the hero, Billy Chapel, pitches his gem against the Yankees, they were tied with the Boston Red Sox and the pennant was yet to be decided.
It would appear that actors like politicians can’t be trusted.