Tom Guiry and Marty York want people to know they take their work seriously. Forget about becoming the next Macaulay Culkins; for these actors the play's the thing -- or in this case the movie: "The Sandlot," opening today at area theaters.
Ensconced recently in a Washington hotel room during a six-city promotional swing, the 12-year-old actors slog manfully through a day of interviews with television and newspaper reporters. Like actors three times their age, they talk glibly about their agents, the inspiration their director (David Mickey Evans) provided, the wholesomeness of their movie, and past and coming credits.
A visitor begins to wonder, as the pope was reputed to have asked Americans in the 1930s about Shirley Temple: "Is this a midget?"
But then they become restive, and eagerly divulge some inside details about the warm, nostalgic film, which chronicles a 1960s summer in the lives of a gang of baseball-playing kids.
Did you know the chewing tobacco the guys try one night is really an awful-tasting mix of corned beef and licorice, for example?
"And the throw-up was just chicken noodle soup," Tom says of the ensuing scene, as the boys whirl around on a carnival ride.
"Yeah, and salsa. Chicken noodle soup and salsa. It looked really gross," Marty adds.
"I had to take the ride 18 times, and I really felt sick," Tom says of the scene, which got the biggest laugh from an audience of kids and parents at a recent screening in Glen Burnie.
The actors also reveal that "The Beast," a dog of fantastic proportion who hoards baseballs hit into his yard, was really played by three dogs -- bull mastiffs named Gunner, Rocky and Bully (as well as special-effects magic in some scenes).
And in between scenes and on days off during last summer's two-month shoot in Salt Lake City, they easily shed their 1960s characters to play video games in a condo complex off the set or to hang out at the local mall.
So these are really boys, after all.
In "The Sandlot," Tom, from the New Jersey suburbs of New York, plays the lead role of Scotty, the new kid in the neighborhood who aches to be accepted by the guys who play a seemingly non-stop baseball game in the weedy yard of the title. He also strains to develop a closer relationship with his mother's new husband (played by comic Denis Leary; Karen Allen portrays Scotty's mother).
Marty, a Sacramento, Calif., native whose family moved to Los Angeles to further his career, plays the smaller part of Yeah Yeah, so called for his habit of starting every sentence that way.
Both performers have been in show business since age 6 or so, doing commercials and stage work. Tom also starred last weekend in the CBS TV movie "A Place To Be Loved," portraying the Florida boy who divorced his parents.
For Tom and Marty, of course, the 1962 setting of the movie reaches back into ancient history.
"It was great dressing up in those clothes. The shirts were really baggy and the shoes were funny," says Marty. He means P.F. Flyers, the canvas sneakers that predated the $100-plus running shoe.
"It was hard not to do what we do today. I couldn't say anything obnoxious in the movie," confides Tom.
Indeed, in sharp contrast to many adolescent movies and TV series these days, "The Sandlot" boys are almost pristine in their language and never make smart cracks to adults. (James Earl Jones, as a mysterious neighbor, is the film's only other important adult character.)
"David said he wanted a clean, nice movie," says Marty, of director Evans, who also co-wrote the script, with Robert Gunter.
"Why would we need [bad language]?" adds Tom. "We made it funny without it."