Robinson actor swings for the fences

Behind him, footage of Robinson and advertising for the movie played in a loop. We mentioned how odd it was that the same parks where the man himself was jeered are greeting his actorly doppelganger several decades later. Boseman said yes, he was aware of the irony.

Crickets.

We should have mentioned here how Robinson's Wrigley debut (May 18, 1947) was before a sold-out house of 46,500, how the Chicago Defender estimated 20,000 more hovered outside the gates and earlier in the week gave tips to African-Americans on the South Side making a rare jaunt to the North Side for the game. We should have mentioned the Cubs took a team vote to boycott the game but played anyway. And that in 1972, when Robinson died at 53, Mike Royko famously wrote in the Chicago Daily News, describing the opportunism beneath a warm childhood memory, that he was there that day in 1947, caught a foul ball Robinson hit and sold it to a black man for $10: "When I left the ballpark, with that much money in my pocket, I was sure that Jackie Robinson wasn't bad for the game."

Instead, we asked, when the ball is thrown at your head in the movie, is that really your head?

"Real," Boseman said.

We asked how an actor could act knowing a ball is being thrown intentionally at his head?

"I never got hit," he said, "and at least I knew it's coming."

But how do you not wince?

He said, "It doesn't matter what you are playing. You are playing the moments before the thing. It's my job as an actor to not know it's going to happen, though I know it's going to happen, to forget what you are going to say to me and forget what I am about to say, and just trust that the right things come out of my mouth."

We said we were impressed.

He said, "I had a stunt double and was expected to not do certain things, but I didn't want to play it like that. I had prepared, and so much of how he played the game was a response to what was happening to him. Even that slide, we wouldn't have this movie poster with him sliding if it wasn't really me doing the sliding."

We should have mentioned Photoshop, but we forgot.

cborrelli@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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