BUFFALO, NY- Thirty years ago this May, Buffalo hit the big time, and the big screen.
The Natural was released in May of 1984.
It was lights, camera, and action when filming took place for two months in the late summer of 1983.
The big draw of course was Robert Redford, probably the biggest movie star in the world at that time.
I was a young reporter back then and was fortunate enough to get the only television interview that Redford did while he was in town. One of my questions: what he would tell people about his time in Buffalo?
"I would defend it, in fact I already have, some people have said you're in Buffalo, you've been there since August first, are you all right? And it's quite easy for me to defend it because I really have enjoyed it," Redford said back in 1983.
Someone else who enjoyed her time here was one of Redford's co-stars, Glenn Close.
"I really get a feeling that people are very enthusiastic about their city. And it's very infectious and Buffalo has made us feel very welcome," Close said back then.
In addition to Redford and Close and Kim Basinger, there was another star in the Natural and that was the city of Buffalo itself.
Although Buffalo was chosen as the location for the movie because of the old War Memorial Stadium on Best Street, once the film makers were here they found a number of other locations to shoot at, including Parkside Candy on Main Street which doubled as a candy store in Chicago, The Ellicott Square building, whose lobby doubled as the team's hotel, and All High
Stadium, which through the magic of Hollywood was transformed into Chicago's Wrigley Field.
Bisons announcer Duke McGuire, a former minor league baseball player, was cast as one of Redford's teammates on the New York Knights.
McGuire wound up in a number of scenes, thanks to the fact that he made sure he was sitting near Redford on the bench.
"[Redford] was a good guy, I mean he was a good guy. The people were great in that movie, Glenn Close was terrific, she was a really nice person, Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth, they were all great guys, they were just down to earth really good guys," McGuire said.
In my interview with Redford he said he had just one bone to pick with Buffalo.
"It could use better drivers. Could use better drivers, I was grinding my teeth the whole time I was driving in this city. Interesting experience," Redford said.
The Natural was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Glenn Close.