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The Natural Details


The film version of The Natural pulls off the neat trick of conveying the spirit of the Bernard Malamud novel upon which it is based, even while changing both the outcome and the meaning of Malamud's closing chapters. In his first film appearance in four years, Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs, a farm boy with a hankering to be a great baseball player. With his faithful homemade bat "Wonderboy" in hand, Roy heads to the big city. En route, he arouses the fascination of the mysterious Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey). Luring the boy to a hotel room, Harriet asks Roy what he wants out of life. Roy brashly responds he wants to be "the best there is," whereupon Harriet whips out a gun and shoots Roy down. Sixteen years later, a humbler Roy Hobbs emerges from the bush leagues to become a 35-year-old "rookie" on the 1939 lineup of the New York Knights. He soon becomes the team's star player, and in so doing once more attracts enigmatic woman Memo Paris (Kim Basinger), the glamorous niece of the Knights' manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley) and the mistress of Rothstein-like gambler Gus Sands (a curiously unbilled Darren McGavin). Roy's fascination with Memo compromises his ability to play, but this time he finds salvation in the form the angelic Iris Gaines (Glenn Close), his childhood sweetheart. From this point forward, the script for The Natural bears very little resemblance to the Malamud original. Without giving anything away, it can be said that Roy Hobbs is given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compensate for the mistakes of his youth, despite the demonic intrusion of inexplicably spiteful sports writer Max Mercy (Robert Duvall). The Natural elevates the art of slow-motion photography to new heights; while this technique would become precious and boring in later baseball films, it works beautifully here, as does the decision by director Barry Levinson and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel to convey the symbolism inherent in the story in purely visual rather than blatantly verbal terms. (If the characters told you that the story was a retelling of the Camelot legend in baseball terms, would you have watched?) Another plus is the pastoral theme music by Randy Newman, which has been well utilized on sports broadcasts and "human interest" TV documentaries ever since. The baseball scenes in The Natural were staged at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, New York. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:May 11, 1984


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences James Murakami Best Art Direction 1984 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Randy Newman Best Original Score 1984 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Speed Hopkins Best Art Direction 1984 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Glenn Close Best Supporting Actress 1984 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Kim Basinger Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture 1984 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Mel Bourne Best Art Direction 1984 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Caleb Deschanel Best Cinematography 1984 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Angelo P. Graham Best Art Direction 1984 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Bruce Weintraub Best Art Direction 1984 Nominee


Robert Redford
as Roy Hobbs
Robert Duvall
as Max Mercy
Glenn Close
as Iris Gaines
Kim Basinger
as Memo Paris
Wilford Brimley
as Pop Fisher
Barbara Hershey
as Harriet Bird
Robert Prosky
as The Judge
Richard Farnsworth
as Red Blow
Joe Don Baker
as The Whammer
John Finnegan
as Sam Simpson
Alan Fudge
as Ed Hobbs
Rachel Hall
as Young Iris
Michael Madsen
as Bump Bailey
Danny Aiello
as Emil LaJang
Bernie McInerney
as Hospital Doctor
Gayle Vance
as Maid at Party
Joe Castellano
as Allie Stubs
Barry Kivel
as Pat McGee
Martin Grey-Gottlieb
Darren McGavin
as Gus Sands
Jon Van Ness
as John Olsen
Joseph Strand
as Home Plate Umpire at Final Game
Edward Walsh
as Newsreel Presenter
Mike Starr
as Boone
Eddie Cipot
as Gabby Laslow
Ralph Tabakin
as Al's Customer


Barry Levinson
Philip Breen
Roger Towne
Roger Towne
Bernard Malamud
Book Author
Phil Dusenberry
Caleb Deschanel
Jeff Wexler
Musical Direction/Supervision
Randy Newman
Composer (Music Score)
Stu Linder
Angelo P. Graham
Production Designer
Mel Bourne
Production Designer
Speed Hopkins
Art Director
James Murakami
Art Director
Robert F. Colesberry
Associate Producer
Philip Breen
Executive Producer
Roger Towne
Executive Producer
Bruce Weintraub
Set Designer
Bernie Pollack
Costume Designer
Gloria Gresham
Costume Designer
Jeff Wexler
Sound/Sound Designer
Chris McLaughlin
Sound/Sound Designer
Chris Soldo
First Assistant Director
Patrick Crowley
First Assistant Director