Video Rewind Interview: Tracy Reiner from A League of Their Own
Since it's summer, it would have been easy to write up a couple of reviews which feature baseball as the star and while it may look easy on screen did you ever think what it's like behind the scenes? Especially when the movie is about women's baseball?
While most actors and actresses rely on their acting skills to nail a part at an audition, the actresses trying out for A League of Their Own had to rely on their athletic abilities. If they failed at the ballpark where auditions were held then they didn't get an audition.
But for Tracy Reiner (Betty 'Spaghetti' Horn) it was a fluke to be a part of the movie.
When her mother (director Penny Marshall) asked her to drive her cousin to the ball field where they were holding tryouts Reiner agreed to it, and had no intention of trying out for the film. Plus she had just had two teeth extracted and wasn't in the mood for an audition.
"Basically it was not something that I would have done normally," she said as she reflected on the audition. "My mom asked if I would take my cousin Wendy (who was a softball player) to the ballpark.
"During the auditions she thought she'd try out and after Marshall pulled their scorecards she was offered the role. "What could I say?" she laughed.
The movie, about two sisters (Geena Davis and Lori Petty) who join the first female professional baseball league during World War II, struggle to succeed while their own rivalry begins to grow both on and off the playing field.
While Reiner says she wasn't as athletic as her cousin, she admitted that there were things she could do, like catch and throw the ball from first to third which she was commended upon after the audition. She also says they trained six days a week until shooting began five months later.
The movie itself was also in jeopardy once it was cast and then shelved, but it did get a reprieve when Marshall changed studios and Columbia picked it up only if she would agree to direct it.
Rosie O'Donnell and Reiner were hired by the first director and trained twice for the film.
"There was already a whole group of girls who had trained for nine months and were under consideration but now that she (my mom) was going to direct it into a much bigger movie, another 1,000 girls tried out and once again if you couldn't play you couldn't get an audition."
Reiner says there was only one actress who couldn't play and by not "naming names" says she was very tall, "but she had a bunch of doubles and came into the project late and much to her support, it was really hard. With being really tall you don't want to get really strong. She then went on to realize that it was okay to be a big girl and be strong. I think it taught her an amazing lesson actually."
They worked six days a week and anywhere from 8 to 14 hours. Plus, they shot in Illinois for six months (three in Chicago) and Indiana for five months. And the summer in which they shot the movie wasn't exactly the coolest one on record.
When it came to the weather the California born actress says, "it was interesting if you like sweating. On the one hand we're in these little skirts with wool socks, cleats, and big 1940's hairdos. It would have been much easier to play in like a Nike tank top and leggings and have a cooler knit rather than an old fashioned knit, but we really, really learned how to play ball harder than most pros do now."
And by playing harder what about injuries?
Reiner received a concussion and broke her nose along with a lot of bruises. She said the problem was that they didn't know how to train girls and the trainers wanted them to be more competitive with each other. Yet at the same time she says it was fun to play with the White Sox and at Wrigley Field and Cominsky Park in Chicago.
"I worked out with this one coach who gave me this big black aluminum bat and I could do amazing things with it, yet I had to go back and learn how to hit bare handed with a wood bat."
The one thing about Hollywood is they really aren't too fond of doing period pieces, but this movie makes the transition well since many of the locations add to the movie. When asked if she found it hard to step into the 1940's and then return to the 1990's, Reiner said it wasn't.
"I think that everybody could have put up with the '40's a little bit more. I think we kind of had it easy and although everyone was encouraged to develop their own behaviors, sayings, superstitions and language from the period it could have been a lot more. In a way it was almost like camping, so I think everybody did what they could to bring the spirit to the movie.
"We had the real women (who were actually in the league) there and every night after shooting, we'd go have a beer with these ladies and hear stories of their experiences. Some of these ladies could put away Madonna and her stories because they were in the '40's and they were the first women to be brave and brazen."
Of course with Madonna in the cast and the paparazzi following their every move, Reiner said they had to "hide out" and in one town they hid out in a local gay bar. "We kind of hung out there since it made everyone kind of go away."
While the town wasn't quite receptive to the movie, Reiner recounts that on her first day in town she was wearing a pair of sweat pants and had her hair in a pony tail and someone asked her if she was "with the movie."
It stunned her and when she wanted to know how they knew, the reply was, "You don't have big hair. I said, 'Oh my God, you're right!'" She said she looked around and saw that all of the local women did indeed have big hair.
Since they were filming in a predominately Christian town she says some locals were used as extras, but there was a lot of segregation between the movie and the town. She also pointed out these were the same people who had spelled out "Madonna Go Home" with their bodies.
Even though she wasn't too excited with doing the movie at first, Reiner says, "it was definitely one of those life changing experiences that I wouldn't be half the person I am had I not been a part of it."