DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Eldon Trumm might not have ever been on screen in “Field of Dreams,” but his work for the film was as important as that of star actors Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones and Amy Madigan.
As farm advisor for the film, Trumm was charged with growing the corn that is at the heart of the sports classic.
A successful farmer and former mayor of Worthington, Trumm’s work with the crew making “Field of Dreams” came about because of his work one year earlier with the movie “Miles from Home,” filmed around Worthington. It starred Richard Gere and was directed by Gary Sinise.
“I had been farm advisor during ‘Miles from Home,’ so the next year, the people making ‘Field of Dreams’ talked with people from ‘Miles from Home’ and asked who they should contact around Dyersville,” Trumm recently recalled. “They mentioned my name, and I eventually was hired as farm advisor for ‘Field of Dreams.’”
Trumm was charged with growing the corn, which in 1988 wasn’t the easiest task.
“That summer was one of the driest ones around here for years,” he said.
Knowing the movie plans called for the baseball field to be sodded and that the corn needed to look good, Trumm contacted the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“There is a real nice stream that runs through that farm. I went to the DNR and Corps to see if we could dam it up to create an irrigation pond for the ball diamond and the corn. They said we could and issued us a permit.”
According to Trumm, almost everyone associated with the movie knew little about corn. He was asked to contact Brian Frankish, an assistant director, when he began planting.
“I called his office in Dubuque and spoke to his secretary,” Trumm recalled. “She asked me what a kernel of corn looked like. She didn’t know. She was from Hawaii and asked if it looked anything like a pineapple.”
Trumm said once the corn sprouted, anyone associated with the film walked out into the field. “It’s just what they thought they had to do,” he said. “Just like a little kid you tell not to go somewhere, that’s where they go.”
Trumm said he voiced his concern to Frankish, who told him that’s why he was hired and to take care of it.
A couple of days later, Trumm did just that.
“Two men who were all dressed up were walking around and taking pictures in the corn,” Trumm said. “I told them they needed to leave the field, that too many people were walking around in it. I told them the corn was the most important actor in the movie, (and) that without it, there would be no movie. They both kind of gave me a funny look, didn’t say anything and just left.”
Trumm had an additional admonishment for the two as they departed the field. “I told them not to step on the corn.”
Later in the week, Frankish told Trumm that the two he had kicked out of the corn were Phil Robinson, the film’s director, and Charles Gordon, the producer.
Trumm said he didn’t get in trouble and that the two told Frankish he had hired the right man for the job.
Trumm said Frankish wanted the corn at a certain height by June 25 that summer.
“They wanted it head high to Kevin Costner by that date,” Trumm recalled. “I said it could be planted in late May or by the first of June, but that I couldn’t guarantee it would be that height. He said it had to be so that when Kevin Costner stood up in the field his head was above the corn.”
Trumm said Frankish had even taken an insurance policy out on the height of the corn, meaning Trumm would go out every few days to record the height and photographed the corn to show the insurance company how much the corn was growing.
On June 25, Trumm said, the corn was 6 inches shorter than it needed to be, so the company moved to film scenes at other locations, saying they would return to the field in two weeks.
“I told them if they did that, the corn would be way over their heads when they returned,” he said. “Of course, it was really dry, so we began irrigating. When they returned, the corn was so tall you couldn’t see anyone in the corn.”
Trumm said the problem was solved by building a platform for Costner to walk on while he was in the field.
“When he stood on the platform, you could see his head,” Trumm recalled. “One day, he was walking along and just disappeared. He had fallen off the platform.”
Trumm said both film experiences were positive. “I was pretty fortunate. Those people are just ordinary people like us and will sit and talk. They were very friendly and liked to know what was going on. Both movies were good experiences, and I have a lot of good memories.”