‘42’ filming wraps up in Macon

The excitement of two weeks of cameras and movie sets across Macon came to a close when the crews shooting “42” left Wednesday evening.

Scenes shot Wednesday morning and afternoon at a familiar location -- Luther Williams Field -- were the last ones shot in the city.

The film, set to premiere in April 2013, tells the story of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in major league baseball when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

The film’s publicist said the city -- and its residents -- have been accommodating.

“We couldn’t have done it without the community,” Ernie Malik said.

A crew shot a scene Wednesday in which the Dodgers play the Montreal Royals in a game set up by Branch Rickey, president of the Dodgers, to see how Robinson would play against top talent.

Malik said Macon was chosen for the film after producers started looking for older ball fields within two and a half hours of Atlanta.

Once the crew got to Macon, he said, they began looking for locations to film other scenes in the movie, and they found a gold mine in Macon’s antebellum homes and historic streets.

Malik said about a quarter of the movie was shot in Macon, although the city was never portrayed as itself.

Downtown Macon streets became Brooklyn streets, Terminal Station became a New Orleans airport and Luther Williams Field became a field in Daytona, Fla., where Robinson first trained with the Dodgers.

“With a little paint and a little ingenuity by the production designer, we turned a sleepy Southern town into Brooklyn, New York,” Malik said.

For some people, the film was a chance to live out a story that has been a personal inspiration.

Blake Sanders, a Florida resident, is a former professional baseball player who scored a speaking role in the film.

Sanders said he plays “the first player in the history of baseball to introduce himself to an African-American player.”

His character, Gene Hermanski, was the first person in a locker room of nervous players to step forward and shake Robinson’s hand.

“To be a part of such an amazing story is really a dream come true,” he said.

The production team was dedicated to accuracy, dressing hundreds of extras in period clothing and bringing in dozens of vintage cars, and accuracy on the field was no exception.

Pete Smith, who pitched for the Atlanta Braves from 1987 to 1993, was brought in to make sure the baseball players looked like they were major leaguers.

Smith said the Robinson story has significance to him because the game he played would have been entirely different without Robinson.

“Somebody had to go through this to prove the point that anyone can play baseball,” he said.

Malik said the crew is grateful to the city of Macon, and there’s even been talk of a possible movie premiere in the city as a “thank you” to the community.

The film is set to open April 12, 2013, right before the 66th anniversary of Robinson’s first game with the Dodgers.

To contact writer Liz Bibb, call 744-4425.

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