How Ron Shelton Did Justice to the “Talking Sport”

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Jul 12, 2018


Widely regarded as one of the best sports movies of all time, Ron Shelton’s 1988 feature debut, the quick-witted minor-league comedy Bull Durham, has an unparalleled feel for the ins and outs of the game of baseball, from its idiosyncratic pace of play to the foulmouthed clubhouse camaraderie to the grind of a long season that drags through the dog days of summer. As a former minor leaguer himself, writer-director Shelton brought to the film an insider’s knowledge of what it’s like to play pro ball, a bred-in-the-bone familiarity charmingly brought to life by stars Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon (with Tim Robbins as the hotshot pitching prospect whom Costner’s veteran catcher and Sarandon’s devoted fan take under their respective wings). In this clip from an interview on our new edition of Bull Durham, moderated by film critic Michael Sragow, Shelton illuminates some of the challenges in bringing the national pastime to the big screen, chatting about his desire to depict the game as the “talking sport,” and the difficulty of finding actors who will make believable ballplayers. And watch to the end to hear him tip his hat to Costner—who starred for the director not only as Durham Bull Crash Davis but also as a golf pro in the 1996 comedy Tin Cup—as the best athlete of the many performers he has cast.