Mr. 3000: Inside the production process of a baseball movie

By: Steve Mathie
Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Marcellus Dawson got the unique opportunity to see first-hand what Hollywood’s process is in filming a baseball movie. In fact, Dawson got to do a little acting and showcase his on-the-field talents at the same time.

“I had no idea they were even filming the movie, I heard something about it on the radio and then my baseball coach at the time told me they were having tryouts so I went down and signed my name,” says Dawson.

Dawson has been a film fan his whole life, and is particular to Will Smith and of course, Halle Berry – but he never thought he would find himself on the set of a major motion picture as an extra baseball player and Bernie Mac’s stunt guy.

”The movie was about Bernie’s character being out of baseball for a while and then coming back, so I had to make movements like an out of touch athlete,” says Dawson. “There was one scene where I had to slide 13 times for 13 different shoots to make it look like I was out of shape, which at the time I definitely wasn’t.”

The process of being cast as a player in the film started with the crew taking measurements of all the people who signed up, as well as looking into each person’s background as a ballplayer. Dawson was Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Wisconsin as a high school senior, and went on to play college baseball at Nebraska and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

He was drafted two different times by major league clubs. The San Diego Padres selected him out of high school, and the Boston Red Sox selected him again after he spent a year at a junior college.

While his background may have been enough to prove that he had what it takes, Dawson still went through rigorous training on the field to assure the production company that he could be cast as an extra player.

“I pretty much excelled on the field batting, fielding and throwing. Then they hired me and flew me to New Orleans to film down there,” says Dawson. “They filmed on location at a couple different places, but they also built a locker room down there that looked like Miller Park and filmed some scenes for away games.”

Had you ever seen filming going on before this shoot, and what did you think of the whole filming process?

“I was in Las Vegas and saw NBC shooting the TV show Las Vegas, people around were just taking it all in and I thought it was cool to see all the cameras. But actually being on the set was amazing. You would never imagine how many jobs there are that go into making just one movie. I was actually given my own trailer for a little while, and had to have a hairpiece glued to my head and a little cotton suit so I would look more the Bernie’s character.”

How long were the days and at what times did you shoot?

“The days were usually about 15 hours long, but we never filmed on Sundays. On some of the days during the week where we weren’t filming we actually had practice. The actors had to be at practice too, and you could definitely tell that some of them weren’t natural ball players. They got better though as the production went on, and I had a good chance to know some of the guys. I took them out here in Milwaukee and they took me out on Bourbon Street down there.”

Did you get a chance to meet director Charles Stone III?

“Yea actually I had a lot of contact with him, he pretty much made me feel like I was at home on the set. He told me to relax and be myself, we even played catch a bit. This was all helpful because I had never been on a set before.”

How soon after the movie was filmed did you get to see yourself?

The movie didn’t actually come out for about another year after we filmed, and I went to see it in the theatre. More than anything I was just laughing because I knew parts were me, but no one else ever would have recognized me. I had to actually go buy the DVD and pause and rewind it to show my friends. Overall it was an awesome experience, I’d do it again for sure.”

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