At the time of the release of the motion picture “Bull Durham,” the Mount Company received hundreds of letters, primarily from women across America, hailing the film because of its reinforcement of their decision to live an independent life outside the confines of societal conformity. Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of Annie Savoy had touched them in the way that good movies do, at their best.
As the producer of “Bull Durham,” an unlikely hit to begin with, I can only say that I’m delighted to discover that its fundamental message endures. Namely, the personal courage to stand one’s own ground and carve out an independent course in life, exemplified wonderfully under Ron Shelton’s able direction and portrayed so ably by Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. The message has been well reinforced and raised to the level of national debate thanks to Baseball Hall of Fame’s President Dale Petroskey’s decision to cancel the scheduled 15-year anniversary celebration of “Bull Durham” last week. He did so because of the Hall of Fame’s fear that remarks critical of America’s war on Iraq might be made by Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.
As a result of Petroskey’s decision to preemptively scotch the possibility that the film’s stars and director might express anti-war sentiments at the Cooperstown event, Roger Kahn, author of the definitive book “The Boys of Summer,” called off his Aug. 8 appearance to speak at the Hall of Fame. I’m glad the level of debate about the correctness of this war has been properly raised, and, though I’m sorry the event itself won’t take place, I am delighted that a democratic discourse on freedom of dissent has been inadvertently given a higher level of national consciousness at a time when we need it the most.
Kahn articulately said in his cancellation letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame, “You are, far from supporting our troops, defying the noblest of the American spirit. You are choking the freedom of dissent. How ironic. In theory, at least, we have been fighting this war to give Iraqis the freedom of dissent.”
Through this ill-conceived attempt to stifle one’s right to speak out on an issue as critical to us as the undertaking of a war, and the rationale behind that undertaking, good things have happened. So, my thanks to the Baseball Hall of Fame for broadening the debate that is so necessary to the integrity of our fabric as a people, and for honoring the film “Bull Durham,” on its 15th anniversary, in a most unexpected and productive way.
(Thom Mount, a producer and former president of Universal, is helping restructure RKO Pictures)