Recently, we brought here at CinePOP an article reminiscing about A Very Special Crew, a much-loved 1990s production, which celebrates 30 years since its release this year. The film’s proposition goes far beyond a baseball-focused entertainment comedy-drama. The feature film is significant because of its message of female empowerment, putting women at the center of its narrative in a story of sisterhood and overcoming. This year, A Very Special Team is back, not only for its 30th anniversary, but also because to celebrate, Amazon will finally take the long-awaited new version of the story to paper, bringing something new to play: racial representation. , with black players in the team – an element missing from the original.
Read also: ‘A very special team’ | Remember the 90s classic turns 30 and will become a series on Amazon
Directed by the late Penny Marshall, a fan of the sport, the film was born from an idea of the director after watching a documentary made by a television network on the creation and beginnings of the American League of Women’s Baseball. Starring big names like Geena Davis, Tom Hanks and Madonna, the film tells the story of women called upon to replace men in the 1940s. It was the time of World War II and men had been drafted to fight in the conflict. And since the people needed entertainment during this difficult time, the managers of famous teams tried to choose women (who would not have it easy in the sport – suffering several humiliations) to play and make baseball prosper.
“A Very Special Team” celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2022. The beloved classic has only grown in importance over time.
The film was a critical and public success, managing to remain relevant after these three decades – remaining in the minds and hearts of fans as well. However, what we see on screen doesn’t always reflect what goes on behind the scenes, and often times, fan-favorite movies are a real behind-the-scenes nightmare for their directors. And A Very Special Team has at least one element that has made life harder for everyone around it: material girl Madonna. Notorious bad girl in real life, the music star was married in the 80s to the troubled Sean Penn and lived with him one of the most troubled relationships of the time, which was a veritable paradise for the tabloids and the paparazzo. Legend has it that on a New Year’s Eve, Penn left the singer tied up with ropes calling for help. The two released a film together, Shanghai Surprise (1986), a comic adventure set in the 1930s that became a resounding failure and further rocked the stars’ relationship.
So at 34, Madonna had a, shall we say, not very positive backstage presence at A Very Special Team. For starters, the pop muse was the reason for the originally planned protagonist’s departure from the project. Debra Winger, an actress who has already had two Oscar nominations (for the famous dramas The Force of Destiny and Tender Bonds), practiced baseball for months in order to put on a convincing performance as Dottie. However, as soon as Columbia (Sony) and director Penny Marshall signed Madonna for the role of Mae ‘All the Way’, the group’s sassy player, Winger dropped out of the production. According to the actress, the presence of the singer in the film would take away from the seriousness that she thought the film deserved. According to Winger, the studio was looking for an “Elvis adventure,” referring to the sweet and lighthearted musicals the music star starred in.
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Then famous Hollywood star, and two Oscar nominees, Debra Winger dropped out of the film because of Madonna.
And indeed, all the critics at the time agreed that Madonna’s presence in the film was just a studio ploy to sell more tickets and fill theaters. It’s no coincidence that Madonna also wrote and performed the film’s theme song, “This Used to be my Playground,” for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.
But it wasn’t just Debra Winger who was bothered by the pop diva’s presence in the film. It is widely reported that Madonna felt miserable while filming the film, as she had to leave the hype of cities like Los Angeles and New York, and hide out in the countryside, in the “middle of nowhere”, in cities like Huntingburg. and Evansville. , both in the state of Indiana. Although part of the film was also shot in Chicago. In a letter (not yet WhatsApp) written to friend, photographer Steven Maisel, Madonna revealed her mental state during filming. In his own words: “I couldn’t suffer more than I suffered last month, learning to play baseball with a group of girls (irgh) in Chicago (double irgh). I’m tanned, I’m dirty all day, and I barely wear makeup. Laverne (referring to director Penny Marshall, who starred in the 1970s sitcom Laverne & Shirley), Geena Davis is a Barbie doll, and when God decided where in the world handsome men would live, he didn’t choose Chicago. I made friends, but they are athletes, not actresses. They are nothing extraordinary. I wish I could go to New York.
Material girl Madonna missed her lifestyle while filming ‘A Very Special Crew’.
The letter, made public, shows much of the actress and singer’s sentiment towards the production, including director and co-star Geena Davis, who had just emerged from an Oscar nomination for Thelma & Louise (1991) . Madonna had come out of the hit Dick Tracy (1990), for which she also worked on the soundtrack. Between one blockbuster and another, the pop star created the documentary In Bed with Madonna (1991) and a brief appearance in Woody Allen’s film noir, Fog and Shadows (1991). At the end of the same year of A Very Special Team, Madonna went bold again, with Body in Evidence, her own version of Basic Instinct, full of sex.
Feeling uneasy and happy, Madonna tried to make people around her feel the same. According to reports, in the town of Evansville, Indiana, where much of the film was shot for the World Series game scenes, Madonna was said to be so mean and rude to citizens, hotel staff and restaurants and other venues, that his reputation there remains tarnished to this day. And the star does not hide his lack of appreciation for the place, speaking badly of the city in interviews.
Madonna didn’t bother to be nice to fans and small-town locals while backstage.
Madonna’s rancidity didn’t stop there. During filming of the World Series games, the stars of the film took turns performing shows to entertain the extras, who weren’t even paid. So Tom Hanks, who plays the girls’ coach in the film, performed with puppets, while Rosie O’Donnell performed with her comedy show. But Madonna, in her “good mood” at the time, refused to join the “mortals” and entertain the masses for free. So, several actors pretended to be Madonna and sang her songs to fans, because the real one refused.
Comedian Rosie O’Donnell is also one of the key figures of A Very Special Team. The film marks her film debut and then the comedian will continue on famous feature films such as Tune in to Love (1993), A New Burrow (1993) and The Flintstones – The Movie (1994), where she will play Betty Rubble. In A Very Special Team, O’Donnell plays Doris, Madonna’s character’s friend. At first, the character would be similar to the singer, that is, a sexy woman with less screen time. When O’Donnell was hired, her character changed and grew in prominence.
Despite the lack of sympathy, the singer got her own doll from the movie.
Madonna’s stardom would always lead to a mockery of actor Jon Lovitz, who plays scout Ernie Capadino in the film. When Lovitz learned that the material girl was using a fake name to stay at the production-designated hotel, she decided to play along and create a ridiculous name for the property’s records as well. The name chosen by the actor “Edna Poo-a-dee-doo”.
The friendship that developed between the star and comedian Rosie O’Donnell picks up on some of Madonna’s bad reputation during the production of A Very Special Crew. The comedian was nervous about meeting the muse of pop, but the two ended up hitting it off quickly and intensely. And if there’s anyone behind the scenes to praise the singer, it’s Rosie O’Donnell. The two remain great friends to this day.
Madonna worked hard and worked as hard as other actresses to achieve her best in baseball. And this is a fact recognized by the team. Other than that, the star has always developed a strong New York accent for her character in the film, even though she was born and raised in Michigan. Madonna stands out in the film, among other things, for the less flashy look of her character, striving to deglamorize the image that everyone has of her and center her performance as close as possible to a contemporary of the 1940s. .
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