Robinson never does, but he gets close. In the most devastating scene in the movie, Robinson is nearly broken by a profane opposing manager who repeatedly uses a vile ethnic slur while Robinson is at bat. Distracted and unable to focus, Robinson finally leaves the field and breaks down in a tunnel.
It’s an unsettling scene, and Helgeland admits there was a fine line between getting the point across and overdoing it.
“You had to have it,” Helgeland says. “I thought it was going to be the dividing point in the film because how much of that stuff is too much is personal opinion. Jackie was such a strong guy that it had to be enough to where he had the scene in the tunnel. You have to believe he was driven to that.”
The storytelling in the film is so strong, however, that the scene had a uniting effect on test audiences and likely will on the general public as well.
“The audience is so with him at that point that they feel like it’s happening to them,” Helgeland says. “If you can pull that off, it’s a great thing. If you are white, black or Hispanic and you can sit there and watch that scene and feel what it’s like, that’s what we were going for. We were trying to put the audience in his shoes.”
“For Chadwick, it was exciting,” Helgeland says. “He grew up watching all those Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies long before he ever dreamed of being an actor. It was a good challenge for him to not be intimidated.”
Helgeland credits Ford for putting not only Boseman but also the entire cast and crew at ease. Ford’s presence had a noticeable effect on everyone on the set of the movie, which was filmed mostly in Alabama.
“He didn’t work for the first three or four weeks because we were working on other parts of the film,” Helgeland says. “But when he showed up, you could tell everything moved a little quicker. Everyone thought, ‘Harrison Ford has arrived,’ so everyone had to be on their ‘A’ game. It was great for everybody.”
And once they were on the set, Helgeland knew right away that Ford was going to be successful.
“The first time he had his makeup and wardrobe on, I said to him in a good way, ‘I don’t think anybody’s going to recognize Harrison Ford in there,’ ” Helgeland says. “And he said, ‘Oh, that guy. I think we’ve seen enough of him for a while. We can do without Harrison Ford for a while.’ ”
The first reviews of the film were the most impressive because they were delivered by the Robinson family. Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s daughter, saw the first cut of the film in New York with Rachel Robinson, her mother, who is 90. (Jackie died in 1972.)
“Mom was so nervous when we went in that theater and so thrilled when we came out,” Sharon says. “It was a huge relief. We trusted everybody to make an honest film, and to see how it turned out was so great.”