SALT LAKE CITY — Robbie Connolly had been a backing musician in The Killers for more than six months when the band discovered he’d been an extra in “The Sandlot.”
“Man, when we first interviewed you, you should have just started with that,” Connolly remembers Brandon Flowers, the band’s frontman, telling him. “You would’ve had the gig automatically.”
Connolly, along with hundreds of other Utahns, showed up in the 1993 movie, which was set in 1960s California but filmed in and around Salt Lake City in 1992. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Salt Lake City’s Glendale community and the Salt Lake Bees are hosting separate special events this weekend, where some of the film’s principal cast will be in attendance.
The Deseret News tracked down a handful of the film’s extras — a few with some pretty legendary “Sandlot” parts — and had them recall the moments they remembered most.
‘Ooh, a big doggie!’
Shane Smith might be the only extra in “The Sandot” with a speaking part. As a 5-year-old, Smith auditioned for the movie’s dog chase scene, when an English mastiff nicknamed “the Beast” rampages through the town’s swimming pool, movie theater and Founders Day picnic. For those who have seen it, Smith’s part is unforgettable: “Mommy, mommy, look, a doggie!” he shouts as the enormous dog lumbers toward them, adding, “Ooh, a big doggie!” before his mom pulls him out of the way.
Smith, who grew up in Layton and now lives in Magna, doesn’t remember much about the experience, but one part has stuck with him: The woman playing his mom had long, sharp fingernails and accidentally scratched him during one take.
“So at that point I was miserable,” Smith recalled. “I was miserable because I got scratched, I was miserable because they wouldn’t let me swim. All I wanted to do was swim at that point.”
As Smith remembers it, the director, David Mickey Evans, walked over to Smith and knelt down at eye level.
“What can I do for you so we can do this a few more times?” Evans asked Smith. Evans then a pulled a quarter from his pocket and said, “I’ll give you this quarter.”
“So I stopped,” Smith remembered, “and I (said) in a real pouty voice, ‘Two quarters!’ So everyone just starts laughing, he gives me two quarters — my prized possession throughout the whole rest of the experience.”
Unbeknownst to the young actor, Smith’s gig landed his family a check for approximately $250.
By the time “The Sandlot” hit theaters, Smith said he simply felt embarrassed about it. Adults would regularly ask him to repeat his line, “but for the most part it didn’t feel like me. Saying it so much made it feel even less like me. And now as an adult I’ll brag about it every now and then, but for the most part it still doesn’t feel like me.
“It stopped bothering me after it stopped being my greatest accomplishment in life,” he added.
‘Forever. Forever. Forever. Forever.’
In addition to the sharp fingernails and the shiny new quarters, Smith also remembered a large, fake dog on set that day. “The Sandlot” utilized different versions of the Beast — one an actual living mastiff, one a large mastiff head, the third a gargantuan mastiff suit with two live puppeteers inside. The director posted pictures on his blog in 2012, and the mastiff suit is truly enormous: When the puppet is on all fours, it still stands as tall as a human adult.
Ogden resident Dennis Crezee remembers seeing the imposing puppet on set. He and his co-worker, who worked for Ogden’s fire department, were appropriately cast as firemen for the film’s “legend of the Beast” scene.
The dog is impressive, but the police chief steals the scene with his now-famous utterance of the word “forever,” repeated four times in dramatic slow motion.
“Watching that, it was just a line in a movie,” Crezee said. “And then it turns out to be one of the most iconic phrases of the whole movie. We even use it at the fire station now.”
‘The pool honeys!’
Pleasant View’s Kristen Murdock was a teenager when members of “The Sandlot’s” production team approached her. She was lifeguarding at a nearby water park back then, and producers asked Murdock and some of her fellow lifeguards to be in the swimming pool scene, where Michael “Squints” Palledorous pretends to drown himself to get rescued by his crush, Wendy Peffercorn. Murdock and three of her fellow lifeguards agreed and would eventually become known to “Sandlot” viewers everywhere as “the Pool Honeys.” (Murdock was the brunette in the red swimsuit.)
“We actually kind of got treated like stars,” Murdock recalled. “They told us that we needed to have our hair rolled up in curlers the night before. And we all went to trailer rooms and were fitted into different swimsuits, and then they did our hair and makeup. With the guys they were probably more lax — just wear a swimsuit, and that’s it.”
She spent that whole day outside but didn’t get sunburnt, “because I was a lifeguard … so I was already pretty tan,” she remembered. “But I do have to say, I did have a nice little boyshort tan line from the swimsuit.”
‘God shed his grace on thee’
“The Sandlot” forever changed the neighborhood street of Robbie Connolly’s youth. The musician, who now lives in Provo, was 8 years old when his street became the onscreen neighborhood of Scotty Smalls, Hamilton “Ham” Porter and Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez. Along with his siblings and a bunch of neighborhood friends, Connolly was cast in the film’s Fourth of July scene.
According to Connolly, that block didn’t have streetlights back then. For the film, though, 1960s-style lampposts were installed up and down the street.
“I remember them bringing in all the old cars,” Connolly said. “ … Seeing your ’90s street looking like it’s in the ’60s, it just seems magical as a little kid.”
Connolly was an extra in three scenes, pocketing $60 for each. He spent the money on a pair of rollerblades.
“180 bucks for an 8-year-old is blingin’,” he said with a laugh.
An eventual home run
“The Sandlot” was a modest success at the box office, earning $33 million, according to Box Office Mojo. (It was made for only $7 million.) Its real cultural impact was later, however, once it came to cable, VHS and DVD. It then became a generational movie of sorts. Phrases like, “You’re killing me, Smalls” entered the cultural lexicon and never left. Target and Forever 21 sell “Sandlot”-inspired T-shirts, marketed at those who weren’t alive when “The Sandlot” first hit theaters a quarter-century ago.
Just as the film’s cultural impact took time, so, too, did that realization among the extras the Deseret News interviewed. When it was filmed, those Utahns were just excited to take part. It wasn’t until they got older that they learned “The Sandlot” also mattered beyond Utah’s borders.
For Smith, it began to click when he moved away from home, “and I got cable for the first time in my life and realized how often that movie played on cable,” he said. For others, like Connolly, it was having rock stars like Flowers sing its praises.
In his review of “The Sandlot,” Roger Ebert wrote, “These days too many children's movies are infected by the virus of Winning, as if kids are nothing more than underage pro athletes, and the values of Vince Lombardi prevail: It's not how you play the game, but whether you win or lose. This is a movie that breaks with that tradition, that allows its kids to be kids, that shows them in the insular world of imagination and dreaming that children create entirely apart from adult domains and values.”
And, perhaps because of that separateness, “The Sandlot” has had remarkable staying power.5 comments on this story
“It really comes down to the fact that a lot of us grew up that way,” Smith said. “A lot of us grew up going to the park all the time — us free range kids, at least.”
If you go …
What: “The Sandlot” 25th anniversary celebrations
When: Friday, Aug. 10, 7 p.m.
Where: Smith's Ballpark, 77 E. 1300 South
How much: $9-$26
When: Saturday, Aug. 11, noon-11 p.m.
Where: 1313 W. California Ave.
How much: $25 for general admission, $150 for VIP, at eventbrite.com
Web: “The Sandlot 25th Anniversary” on Facebook