One of my colleagues pointed out the other day that actor Eli Roth, who plays a Nazi hunter that kills his targets by swinging at their heads with baseball bats in the Brad Pitt movie, Inglorious Basterds, got his inspiration from watching Edgar Martinez hit.
It got me thinking about previous cases when Hollwood actors have been inspired by our Mariners. Hey, they may not have World Series rings. But there’s nothing wrong with landing an Oscar or two for someone else.
Like popular Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who has seen his name nominated for an Oscar or two with some fine performances over the years. But few fans know that his true inspiration for the portrayal of con man Frank Abagnale Jr. in the 2002 movie Catch me if You Can, came from none other than Mariners outfielder Al Martin.
I mean, it’s one thing to commit mail fraud, or bilk old ladies out of their retirement savings. But quite another to live a double life, which is what DiCaprio was trying to capture about Abagnale.
Hey, like crushing Nazi skulls with a bat, it ain’t easy acting.
But enough of the darker portrayals. The Mariners have often inspired actors who make people laugh.
For instance, few are aware that when Hollywood and actor/director Billy Bob Thornton were considering a Bad News Bears remake, they simply hauled the entire cast over to Safeco Field to watch Yuniesky Betancourt take ground balls in batting practice. True story. Seriously. I heard somewhere that when they made the original Bad News Bears in the late 1970s, the cast members simply watched the Mariners play at the Kingdome. But I’m not sure about that one, because the years don’t exactly jive. So, can’t vouch for it.
But I do know that Angelina Jolie, whose puckery lips have enthralled big screen patrons for years, was a tad worried about a kissing scene in her latest in-production film Salt. She plays a Russian “sleeper” spy after all, and, well, you know how sexy and passionate they can be…right? So, anyhow, after several years of marriage, kids, etc., I hear she was a little concerned about her ability to be convincing in the kissing scene.
So, for inspiration, she went to a Mariners game to watch pitcher Carlos Silva. Didn’t pay any attention to the game, just stared out at the dugout for the whole nine innings.
Best of luck to Ms. Jolie in her new, soon-to-be critically-acclaimed portrayal, I’m sure.
It isn’t only on the big screen that the Mariners have inspired. For instance, everybody knows by now that Ken Griffey Jr. likes to tickle Ichiro — all the way to the ground, In fact. You can hear the great leadoff man giggling all the way from the second section of seats at times. Well, the creators of one of those animal documentaries you’ve watched from time to time, heard all about this friendship and decided to come watch batting practice.
They were inspired, no doubt, and that warmth they took away from the ballpark that day led to this touching portrayal that audiences worldwide have been talking about at their water coolers ever since.
When I was a kid in Canada, we had this show called Mr. Dressup, in which the show’s host used to keep cool things in a “tickle trunk”. Not sure why I’m thinking about that now, but thought I’d mention it.
But lest you think this whole “inspiration” thing is a one-way street, hey, the Mariners have taken their cues from Hollywood as well.
Back in 1976, actor Peter Finch carried out an Oscar-winning portrayal of television news anchor Howard Beale in the movie Network. In his famous scene, Beale looks into the camera and urges viewers to shout to the world “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”
A haunting performance, especially since Finch died before he could collect his Oscar.
But his work lived on last season, when Mariners manager John McLaren, no-doubt inspired by the scene, borrowed liberally from actor Finch in delivering his own message to the television cameras.
So, hey, it’s nice to know that, more than a century after baseball was created, its cast members can still inspire and be inspired by their fellow artists. To all those Mariners players and coaches seeking to inspire every day, your friends at the Academy salute you!