“The Final Season,” starring Sean Astin, opens in theaters today. The film’s screenplay was written by Art D’Alessandro, whose love of film has led to more than 30 screenplays bearing his name as writer.
“The Final Season,” which also stars Powers Boothe, Tom Arnold and Rachael Leigh Cook, is based on the true story of Norway, Iowa’s, vaunted high school baseball team. It was directed by David Mickey Evans (“The Sandlot”) and made its world premiere at the 2007 Tribeca Film Fesitval.
D’Alessandro also wrote and co-produced the 2006 indie thriller “ZZYZX,” which won the “Best Feature Film” award at the Miami Independent Film & Music Festival and was runner-up at Cenflo, the Central Florida Film Festival, and the Fylmz Festival in Nashville. “ZZYZX” is now available on DVD/Video. His script, “She Drives Me Crazy,” about sisters reconciling after years of estrangement, was produced in Canada by Shaftesbury Films and premiered on Lifetime on September 30, and he has a number of other film projects in the works.
I spoke with D’Alessandro about “The Final Season.” The movie isn’t playing in Sanford, but is playing at Cary’s Crossroads theater complex. Showtimes are 2:20, 5 and 7:40 p.m., with later showings on Friday and Saturday evenings.
How did you become involved in “The Final Season” project?
I had optioned a script called “Reunion” to an Iowa producer back in 1997. He never got to make a film based on my script, but was kind enough to pass on my contact information to Tony Wilson back in 2000. Tony had secured the rights to the Norway coaches’ story in 1991 but hadn’t found the right person to write the script. I sent Tony another baseball script I had written called, oddly enough, “Another Season.” Tony and I had several conversations to make sure we were on the same page. He sent me all the newspaper articles and transcripts of interviews he had done over the years with coaches and players. I made a trip to Iowa to meet and interview the coaches myself, and so began our work on “The Final Season.”
How was it different for you as a writer to work with a subject that’s based on a true story?
In this particular case, I’d say it was harder because I knew that this story had a folkloric status in Iowa, and I felt a real sense of history and doing justice to all those teams of past Norway players and the coaches who brought it to that level over some 25 years. When I went to Iowa in 2000, I sat on the old Norway High baseball field with Coach Jim Van Scoyoc, and we talked baseball and history for hours. He told me how fans would come out on game day hours in advance and park their cars outside the fences to make sure they’d have prime viewing. These were hard-working, no-pretense, salt-of-the earth kind of people, who’d been supporting a high school baseball team for generations. They were my directive.
In the final version of the script, how much “poetic license” were you allowed to take with the story?
As in any true story converted to fit the time and story-telling parameters of filmmaking, we had to compress time and composite characters and events. Over the years, there were players who came in from bigger cities who found fitting into life in a small town like Norway (population 586) very difficult. There were a few players who acted out from time to time, or who didn’t pull their weight. We wanted to show all that, and since we were focusing on that last season in 1991, that’s where we put them.
What’s the timeframe like on a project like this – from inception to the opening screening?
It’s not unusual for any film to take many years from inception to screen. Some really big studio projects have taken 10 years or more. This is an independent movie, so you don’t have that mechanism in place to just “slot in” a picture and get it rolling. I started writing the first script back in 2000. Seven years is not out of the ordinary. Tony Wilson was the guy who had the foresight way back in 1991 to spot a true story that captured a snapshot of a dying Americana. So, if you go back that far, it’s been a while in the making, but our hope is that it has a long, long life in the hearts of baseball movie fans.
What’s next for you?
Ironically, it looks like “Reunion” will be next, though it’s now called “Last Train Home.” This one tells the story of a man who appears to have died, but in the final blips of life that are evidenced by a vein in his neck pulsing, he slides into another time where he confronts himself as a wild youth. I’m working with a great team of producers and a director who has a real affinity to stories of redemption. After that, I hope to direct a project based on my screenplay “Bliss”, which is about a very simple but giving guy who ultimately gives too much and must find a way to reverse course to save himself. My film sensibility (both as a writer and viewer) leans more toward small, people-oriented stories than big action pictures or over-the-top comedies. But, that’s just me.
D’Alessandro can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.