By Ellen Bell, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer -
Picture this: It’s the summer of 1947 and you’re on the grass at Ebbets Field. You’re feeling the heat in your Dodgers flannel as you watch Jackie Robinson fly by right before your eyes, safe at first.
This wasn't a dream, but the first day on the set for Rob Goldman who spent five weeks as an extra on the film, “42.”
“I kept thinking to myself that day, ‘Holy Cow, how did I get here?” said Goldman, an actor and life-long baseball fan.
For Rob Goldman, the journey to his summer of “42” began years ago, when as a boy he met Jackie Robinson at Dodger Stadium. It was an exhibition game in 1971 honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Goldman crossed paths with Robinson in the stands and got an autographed program as a souvenir.
“I had my own Jackie Robinson moment,” he said.
Years later, as an actor who has appeared in such films as “Dances With Wolves” and “JFK” , Goldman heard about the possibility of a movie about his boyhood idol. Several different directors tried to make the film, but writer-director Brian Helgeland was the first to get a green light and make it a reality.
“When I heard about the project,” said Goldman “I had to take a chance.”
In May of 2012, Goldman traveled to Birmingham, Alabama to begin shooting the baseball sequences for the film. Extras aren't guaranteed screen time on a film. Like minor league baseball players, they need to be ready when it’s their chance to bat. On the first day of shooting, Goldman saw an opportunity and stepped up to the plate.
“People were taking the field and I saw that there was no one coaching first base,” Goldman said. “Instead of waiting for someone to ask, I just took the spot. I hit my marks on the first take and it became my job for the rest of the shoot.”
That’s where Goldman can be seen in the film, coaching first base and getting in the umpire’s face after a blown call.
“ I've played and coached a lot of baseball so I brought my experience to the film. It felt good to contribute and be part of the team.”
Teamwork was prevalent on the set, as more than 100 baseball players worked together to film the action scenes. There were three different baseball groups; the cast members who had speaking roles and the “Graf Dodgers” named for the college players led by second unit director Allan Graf, who played the other teams. Goldman was part of the third group, called The Rovers.
“We were the guys who would fill in the holes, playing whatever else was needed.”
As weeks of shooting passed, the groups of actors became a real team, contributing on the field and joking around in the locker room.
“There was an atmosphere of teamwork on the project,” Goldman remembered. “The actors weren't ego driven at all. Chad (Chadwick Boseman who played Jackie Robinson) was just one of the guys. Harrison Ford had no trappings, no entourage. He just wanted to be part of the team.”
“Everyone was committed to the project. The subject matter was too important and everyone wanted to get it right. They put their egos aside.”
The result is a film destined to become a baseball classic. “42” is a powerful portrayal filled with teachable messages for children.
Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, was very involved in the making of the film. She felt that the tone should be honest yet appropriate for a younger audience. The racial language is disturbing but necessary in the context of the story. Ultimately, the story of Jackie Robinson is given the respect and reverence it deserves.
So how does it feel to sit in a darkened movie theater and watch yourself on the screen? Rob Goldman says that, at first, all you see are the technical aspects of the film. Like the way Engel Field in Chattanooga, Tennessee was transformed into Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field though the magic of digital technology.
But about halfway through the screening, something began to change.
“I stopped noticing the technical stuff and got swept away in the story, “ Goldman said. “At some point the story took over.”
So were the 16-hour workdays in southern humidity and weeks of Motel 6 stays worth it?
“I walked out of the theater feeling very content. This movie’s going to be around for a long time, and I’m proud to be a part of something that can have such a positive impact,”
Thinking about his life-long admiration of an American hero, he said, “This movie serves the legacy right.”