Now, as the iconic 1993 film celebrates its 25th anniversary (yes, it’s been that long), there’s one question that needs to be answered…how did James Earl Jones end up being cast as Mr. Mertle?
If you ask the film’s writer and director David Mickey Evans, it was all a matter of timing and a little bit of old school Hollywood “who you know”.
“We didn’t have a Mr. Mertle into the second week of shooting the film,” Evans said during an upcoming visit on The Hall of Very Good Podcast (subscribe now!). “About the second week or so, we start talking about it. My [assistant director] Bill Elvin suggested James Earl Jones.”
Turns out, Elvin worked with Jones on 1989’s “Field of Dreams” and was able to get in touch with the actor with a quick phone call.
Jones would be on set in Salt Lake City shortly after.
“That was cool. We all knew who he was, so there was that anticipation of meeting of Darth Vader,” Shane (Tommy “Repeat” Timmons) Obedzinski adds. “I believe he was only on set for a day, so we all had a moment where we got to meet him during the lunch hour before shooting.”
Evans also notes that the Mr. Mertle character was written with no ethnicity in mind and it was actually Jones who suggested that he have a backstory as a former Negro Leagues ball player.
The rest, as they say…it cinematic history.