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BULL DURHAM WEEK, DAY 2: TIM ROBBINS

8/5/2008
Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, seen here stumping for John Edwards last winter, might not have come together if not for Bull DurhamGetty Images

Welcome back to Bull Durham week here at Mag.Com. Yesterday, we dropped an interview with writer/director Ron Shelton. Now, we present Tim Robbins. His turn as unfocused hurler Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh was his first major role, unless you count Howard the Duck as "major" (we're torn, but leaning no). Since then, he's directed arguably one of the best films of the 1990s (Dead Man Walking), won an Oscar (Mystic River), appeared in such diverse roles as Andy in The Shawshank Redemption and the title character in Bob Roberts—and oh, he happens to be one of the most politically-active celebrities out there. Lest we forget to mention, he met his partner (they're not married) Susan Sarandon on the set of Bull Durham; they have two sons. It's a good thing Annie didn't end up with Crash, because Tim Robbins has led a blessed life, full of large satellite dishes, odd Presidential endorsements, drinking from the Stanley Cup and appreciating Clint Eastwood for the physical specimen he is. Read up.

Mag.com: We talked to Shelton and asked him where all these characters would be, twenty years later. He said Nuke would be washed-up, possibly on HGH and looking to catch on anywhere. Where do you see him?

Robbins: If we ever remade it now, the first scene is him sitting at one of those autograph conventions. He's an alcoholic, but yet, he has a moment of relevation: even though his arm is shot, there's always the knuckleball! The central story for Nuke of that movie would be learning to throw it and making a triumphant return. I guess the only way he can really learn the knuckleball, though, is if Crash or Annie teach him.

What's your favorite scene in that movie?

You know, I haven't watched it in a while. I do remember some scenes we did in the stadium when it was all wet, running around in the rain. Those were great. Hands down, though, it was any scene where I was on that mound. Growing up, we didn't have a TV; I used to listen to every Mets game on the radio. I'd get in a Mets jersey and pretend to be every player during the course of the broadcast. I had a very active imagination and was always putting myself as the pitcher in big games, so it was a dream come true to act that out in a film.

What's the funniest on-set memory you remember?

[Ed's note: Kevin Costner interview tomorrow has a tremendous answer to this question, which Robbins also gave. We'll make you wait, though!] You talked to Kevin, right? Did he tell you about Shelton going all Cujo on one of the producers? I'm not going to name names, but let's say this: very early on in production, Ron took a gamble and it paid off for him. He asserted his authority.

This may be tough for a veteran actor to answer, but what's your favorite role ever?

Nuke is one of my favorites; that movie had a profound effect on my life. It was the first movie I ever did that was seen by a lot of people; I met Susan and now we have a life together and two wonderful sons. Aside from that: Jacob's Ladder, Shawshank Redemption, The Player. As a director? All of 'em.

Again, might be tough—but what's Susan's? Is it Annie Savoy?

Oh, it's tough because she's great in everything. You can't forget Thelma and Louise either. Another one is Lorenzo's Oil. She's absolutely brilliant in that.

As a Mets fan, do you think Willie Randolph should be axed?

Willie's a great manager. Some of the things happening with the team this year have nothing to do with Willie. I think the team knows it's gotta start performing better and when that starts happening, they'll be calling Willie brilliant.

So who would be your all-time favorite Met?

Wes Westrum.

(laughs) Serious?

No. It's tough. I was in the stadium when they won it in 1969; it was my 11th birthday the exact day they won the World Series. So that whole '69 team is special to me, from Tommy Agee to Jerry Grote.

For a while one of our dads was collecting '69 Mets cards, but it's impossible to get Nolan Ryan.

Yea, the key is to get a Jim Fregrosi card and pretend it's Ryan.

What about other Mets?

The 1986 team was great too: Strawberry, Ray Knight, Gary Carter. I was at Game 7 of that series too.

It seems like you and Susan were all over the TV during the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. What are your memories of that series?

Well first, I was in the stands for Matteau's goal against the Devils. That was great. I was doing a film at the time out in NJ—IQ—I hired a satellite dish to be on the set so I could watch Game 5 of the Cup Finals, and at the time it was those big-ass satellite dishes; it was one of those moments of extravagance that was justified. Game 6 was in Vancouver. Susan was doing a movie out there at the time and on the way out, Gary Bettman and Brian Burke are on the plane; they set me up with Game 7 tickets. Being out at Game 6 was tough; we went in with our colors on and wore our jerseys and the people weren't very nice. We got stuff thrown at us and people were jeering and stuff. If we had won, we'd probably be killed.

We win Game 7 and my friend Frank and I went in search of the Cup. I wasn't connected with the team; I got in a cab and said "Take us to Tribeca" because we had "a hot tip" it would be there. Went down there to a couple of bars, pretty dead, realized it was a bad tip—got in a cab again. Said simply, "Take us to the Cup." After about an hour driving around the Upper West Side, I realize this cab driver has no idea what he's doing. Get in another cab. The third cab driver knew! He took us to where it was within like five minutes. I go to the front door and we're still in our Rangers jerseys and the bouncer goes "Sorry, you can't come in with that on; it's dress only." The other bouncer says "That guy was in Game 6 in Vancouver; I saw him on TV." I don't think he recognized me; he just knew that I had risked life and limb to be out there in Canada. I ended up partying till dawn and drinking straight from the Cup.

You endorsed John Edwards. He's out now. What's your endorsement and what are the main priorities you'd like to see the next President undertake?

I'm actually endorsing Johan Santana for President (laughs). I'm pulling for the American people; it's citizens that make change. In terms of priorities, aside from permanently eliminating artificial playing surfaces? Get our economy going again. A lot of that has to do with re-allocating billions of dollars we're spending on a failed policy in Iraq.

Quick hitter now: out of all the athletes you've worked with, who's the best athlete and why?

Shelton used to play baseball, so he's up there. Costner is a legitimately good hitter, so he's up there. (Clint) Eastwood is in great shape. I worked with Lyle Alzado once in Tapeheads.

What about the duck in Howard the Duck?

That would probably be on the low end of the spectrum. (pause) I understand Sean Penn is a very good tennis player, though.

So, understandably you're biased, but is Bull Durham the best sports movie of all-time?

Including Air Bud?

(laughs) Yea.

Yea, I mean I am biased, but I'd have to say yes, it is.