The Red Sox got their win, and the Farrellys' 'Fever Pitch' got the perfect ending
(Correction: In today's Movies section preview of ''Fever Pitch," Nick Hornby's book of the same name was incorrectly described as a novel. It is a memoir.)
On a gloriously sunny day last summer, Peter Farrelly stood near the home-team dugout at Fenway Park pondering what it would mean to him if his beloved Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
Among other things, it would mean Farrelly, who with his brother Bobby has written and directed such films as ''There's Something About Mary" and ''Dumb and Dumber," would have to change the ending of their latest film, ''Fever Pitch," a romantic comedy set in Boston during the baseball season. Days before he'd already shot an ending at Fenway, and reshoots can be time-consuming and expensive. Still, Farrelly said, it would all be worth it if the Sox could finally reverse the curse.
''No team, in any sport, has been as consistently good as the Red Sox and not won a championship. We've been right there so many times," he said, taking a break between shooting crowd-reaction scenes at Fenway. ''So it would be amazing. We've been waiting so long, I can't even imagine what that would feel like to win the Series. If the Sox win the Series, that would be the perfect ending for everything."
As everyone knows, the Olde Towne Team did the impossible, coming back from the 0-3 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, then swept the St. Louis Cardinals to claim its first World Series in 86 years. And ''Fever Pitch" will reflect the Sox' historic win. On April 6, the film will have its world premiere, complete with red carpet arrivals by stars Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon at Fenway Park, at the nearby Fenway Theatre.
After the team's stunning ALCS upset, the Farrelly brothers asked the film's screenwriters, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, to change the script to reflect the team's historic winning ways.
At the time, months after completing their shoot in Boston, Bobby Farrelly told the Associated Press, ''Until then, we didn't allow ourselves to dream that it could happen. You know how superstitious everyone is in Boston. We felt like if we started writing before that, we'd jinx them."
The film's original ending, shot at Fenway after a game in front of 30,000 fans, had Barrymore and Fallon kissing on the field. That conclusion was scrapped. The new one unfolds at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, with the two actors embracing and celebrating among the Sox players at the actual World Series.
''It works brilliantly at the end," he told AP. ''We didn't want to try to fictionalize it, but now it's reality." It was brilliant for Hollywood, even if some Sox fans, basking in the celebration, found such an intrusion on the greatest moment in Boston sports history unseemly.
Based on Nick Hornby's best-selling novel about a soccer-obsessed Brit, ''Fever Pitch" is the story of a rabid Red Sox fan torn between his girlfriend and the team he adores. Still, Peter Farrelly, who codirected the film with his brother, maintains ''Fever Pitch" is a love story, not a baseball movie.
''You don't have to understand baseball to understand this movie. There's not one point where you need to comprehend anything on the field," he said, shortly after completing a scene in which Fallon sat in the stands and pretended to react to a play. At the same time, the real grounds crew was preparing the field for that evening's ballgame.
''Everything that takes place in the stands at Fenway is about his love for the Red Sox and this girl," Farrelly said. ''It's a love triangle -- guy, girl, Red Sox."
Best known for his years as a cast member on ''Saturday Night Live," Fallon, who stars as the BoSox-loving fan, agreed.
''This could be about any kind of fanatic," he said, a Sox cap perched on his head. ''There's so many people who struggle in relationships because they're fans of things -- 'You don't understand what I'm about. I love baseball. I live for it. This is not a joke, I am dead serious.' There's a cult of people who feel this way."
That's why the film is set in Boston, which the filmmakers view as a baseball town like no other.
''I live in LA. But when you come here and go to a restaurant, everybody's watching the game. They don't do that in LA," said Marc S. Fischer, one of the film's executive producers. ''Here, every bar has the TV on, you're talking on the street, and everyone knows the score. I love the passion. For a while, there was talk about making it [about] the Cubs, and they have history, too, but Fenway Park is Fenway Park."
Long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans will testify that they have endured perhaps even more heartbreak than your average Sox fan. From billy goats to Steve Bartman, the hapless Cubs' World Series drought is even more ignominious than the Sox' taking 86 years to claim another championship. Not only have the Cubs failed to win a World Series since 1908, they haven't even gotten to the big dance since 1945.
''We did talk about the Cubs and Wrigley Field, but in the end it had to be the Red Sox and Fenway," Bobby Farrelly said. ''I think the Red Sox fans have been through more. Yes, the Cubs fans have been through it longer, but I don't know that they've had the heartache. The Cubs are futile, but they don't have the charm of the Red Sox. They're not futile, but they're always good enough to get your hopes soaring."
Though most of ''Fever Pitch" was shot in Toronto, the film's cast and crew spent nearly two weeks in Boston to make the film as authentic as possible. Real Sox players such as Johnny Damon appear in the film -- ''When you see Manny Ramirez in the movie, it's Manny Ramirez the baseball player," Farrelly said, not an actor playing him. And part of keepin' it real was barring the oft-imitated, usually butchered Boston accent. (For an example, see ''Mystic River.")
''One of the things we said right away -- nobody's going to fake an accent in this movie. If they have a Boston accent, great. If they don't, fine," Bobby Farrelly said. ''Not everyone has it, and they certainly don't have the one they do on TV or in the movies, that Bobby Kennedy-type accent that they always get wrong."
At the time, the Sox were in the thick of the playoff race and the city was buzzing with what was already shaping up to be a memorable run. Bobby Farrelly called it a ''magical time" to be in the city, and especially Fenway Park.
''Hope gives you so much energy," he said. ''When you expect to win, if you get it, you're just where you expected to be, but we're juiced up with all the hope."
So juiced up, in fact, that the Farrellys had no problems convincing Sox fans to spend hours in the stands as nonspeaking extras. Several hundred showed up each day to mime (crowd noise would be added later) reactions -- throwing their hands in the air, rising up in their seats to see a potential home run, or feigning the kind of soul-shearing disappointment that, until last October, coursed through the veins of every Sox fan.
And, at the end of an actual game, nearly 30,000 fans remained for a crucial scene involving Fallon and Barrymore.
''The whole stadium stayed, and since the Red Sox won that night, they were in a good mood," Fallon said. ''It was like having 30,000 people watching you act, and that's pretty rough. But it was awesome. That's one of the most memorable moments of my career."
Making ''Fever Pitch" has been especially gratifying for the Farrellys, who were raised in Cumberland, R.I., as diehard Sox fans. Their family would make the 45-minute trip ''four or five times a year, every year of my life" to Fenway Park, Bobby Farrelly recalled.
''I always followed the team and knew how many games they were out. But my brother had it worse," he said. ''He'd live and die for them. Even early on, I was more jaded -- 'They're gonna lose, they're gonna blow it' -- but he bit the hook every single time."
Peter Farrelly's devotion to the Red Sox remains. He can toss off obscure facts and figures about seasons past and recalled countless summer nights of his childhood spent with his ear pressed to a radio broadcasting Sox games -- ''I was staring at the radio when Tony C. [former Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro] got hit by [former California Angels pitcher] Jack Hamilton back in '67," he recalled. ''I'll never forget that."
Being on the field at Fenway -- the same field as Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, and now Curt Schilling and David Ortiz -- was ''an absolute goof," Farrelly said. For a lifelong Sox fan, it was an extraordinary feeling only surpassed by the team's improbable, triumphant season.
''I don't want to fall into that trap of people who talk about baseball like it's this great spiritual thing," he said. ''But I must say there's just something about this park. Being here, it's like life squared."