(Photo: D. Stevens/Warner Bros. Pictures)
Baseball fans and movie fanatics alike have something to celebrate this Friday with the release of the new film "42."
Aptly titled after the athlete's jersey number, the film is based on the true story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to join Major League Baseball. He became a player for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. In honor of Robinson, the number 42 jersey became the first number ever to become retired in MLB history.
Furthermore, each year on April 15, every MLB player on every MLB team dons the distinctive number in remembrance of Robinson.
"42" boasts an impressive cast including Harrison Ford, Chadwick Boseman, and Christopher Meloni. Newcomer Boseman stars as Robinson in "42," and while bearing a crooked smile not unlike his character, the actor threw himself headlong into the role.
"He was an inspiration, not just to African-American boys and girls, and he still is," said the rising star during a press conference.
Brian Helgeland, who has helmed films such as "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and the award-winning "Mystic River," served as director of "42."
While searching for the perfect actor to portray Robinson, Helgelend explained that Boseman displayed passionate determination from day one.
"He was the second actor to come in- I didn't want a really well known actor to play Jackie, that always makes it hard to suspend your disbelief," noted the director during the press event.
Helgeland revealed that auditions included three difficult scenes taken from "42," and that Boseman delivered the strongest performance.
"Chad came in and he chose the most difficult scene and really went for it- [the scene where] he was in the tunnel broke the bat- he did that scene in a room with a wiffle ball bat and a chair, he did it almost exactly the way he did in the film. It was a really brave choice, a lot of actors had gone down the middle of the road but he went for it. He put himself in a position to either be rejected or do pretty great, and that was all I needed to know about him," he said.
The director went on to explain that Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow, played a significant role in the production of "42."
"I had to prove to her that the way I wanted to tell the story was the right way," said Helgeland. "She had the rights, I had to meet with her and she told me her concerns. She agreed to read the script, and I got feedback from her, she was involved all the way."
Meanwhile, "42" marks Boseman's biggest role yet. The actor recalled the moment he learned that he had landed the role of Robinson as being a dream come true.
Then, adding his own experience landing his first big role, Ford came close to tears.
"I was an overnight success, it was just a real long night," the seasoned actor quipped.
"The only ambition I ever had going in, committing to want to be an actor, to live my life," Ford added before being overcome with emotion.
Ford, who will celebrate his 70th birthday this July, landed his first major role as Han Solo in the George Lucas-directed "Star Wars." His role as Branch Rickey in "42" is the first time the actor has ever portrayed a real person onscreen.
"42" opens in theaters everywhere on Friday, April 12.