Barry Levinson

The Natural: The Directors Cut is a new release of the classic baseball movie that featured Robert Redford back in 1984. The DVD includes extra features and never before seen footage. Academy Award winning director Barry Levinson reflects on the movie, winning the Oscar for Rain Man, and his thoughts on the entertainment industry today.

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Chris Yandek: The Natural: The Directors Cut on DVD is being released on April 3rd and includes 15 minutes of never before seen footage and other special features. Why is this version that is being released 23 years after the original really the vision you wanted in the first place?

Barry Levinson: “It’s not really just 15 minutes added to it. The key to this particular version, because they wanted to do one, but when we did the film, we were under kind of a time crunch before its release. We really couldn’t get the first act done in the way we were thinking of doing it. The movie came out and it did quite well, but I always used to think about the version, the opening act you might call it and what it might really be like. We had thought over the years that footage was lost and when Sony called about doing a DVD I mentioned it and they went looking and they found it and we reconstructed it, worked on it, and ended up with this redone first act. Of course other elements fell into place after that.”

CY: Do you have any favorite moment during the shooting with Robert Redford in this old themed movie where we go back to baseball in the 1930s, any moment that you can remember that truly stood out to you on set when you were filming it?

BL: “When we were shooting and I think it was in the scene where he is striking out and there was one pitch that came in and he hit it out of the park. It was a beautiful homerun, but he was supposed to have missed the pitch. I just remember the fun of it and going hey Robert Redford just put one out of the ballpark. I just remember that moment.”

CY: Where do you feel The Natural ranks all time with other sports movies and do you have any other favorite movies in the genre?

BL: “I think over the years there had been more baseball movies since The Natural. At the time we were doing The Natural that was supposedly box office poison. Sports movies, baseball movies, they don’t work. Fortunately we succeeded and there is a number of them that have come along since. Ron Shelton has done some. He played minor league baseball and really knows the game and has done some good work. I always like Pride of The Yankees because I liked Gary Cooper so much. It’s kind of funny reminding me what a Lou Gehrig would’ve been like in a way. There is a few that have come along over the years.”

CY: You have been a director, actor, screenwriter, and producer for over 30 years. How has the movie and TV industries changed and is it for the better or worse?

BL: “It’s a hard question. I always think that there is the good and the bad of it all. I think we are seeing a radical shift in the business in general. The studios are making much more of the real big extravaganzas and there are other kinds of films that are coming out. I think you are going to begin to see more diversification that we’ve seen in the past. The changing distributions and the whole thing of digital video and the internet influence. I think it’s a promising time which will show a lot of diversification that we’ve seen in the past.”

CY: You won the Oscar as best director of the classic movie Rain Man back in 1989. Do you still remember the moment your named was called and what was it about that movie you feel people relate to and enjoyed?

BL: “I don’t remember the moment. It’s a complete blank. It’s funny that I have no recollection of any of it whatsoever. I must’ve been in shock over that entire thing. Obviously I was pleased, but I don’t have a real clear remembrance of going up on the stage, getting it, I’ve actually never seen the video of that night. It exists as kind of a blank spot in my recollections. In terms of why, it’s always hard to explain why an audience ultimately responds to a movie. I think you can guess. I just think the nature of the relationship between Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.

I think the way Tom had to deal with him. I think something in terms of the behavior, the nature of autism, something we probably had never heard about at that time and how he dealt with him in not a clinical fashion. At the same time it is a road film in many ways. I think there were a number of elements, but I don’t think you can really say here is why. I think certain movies work and that is part of the magic of it all. We can’t truly define why something succeeds.”

CY: Finally, being a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and of baseball in general, what are you thoughts on all headlines and news of guys taking steroids, HGH, and THG and does it disappoint you that a group of these guys feel they need something to enhance their performance whether it be illegal or not?

BL: “It’s a complicated question. On one hand you say no they shouldn’t take anything and some of them are really detrimental. Some of the things you heard about may not be detrimental in terms of that. It’s a complicated question. You’d like for somebody to define in a sense what is legal and what do some of these things do to your body. I for one don’t understand when somebody says they took the Human Growth Hormone and this one took the whatever.

I don’t understand what that all means. I do know when you look at some ballplayer and all of a sudden he is the size of a truck something is wrong. I don’t know about any of those things they have been talking about recently. Think the biggest issue with that is there is no real clarity and not defined enough so we just as fans understand it all a little bit better.”

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