People asked Ron Shelton, again and again, if he was going to write a sequel to Bull Durham. He couldn’t bring himself to do it, and I’m glad he didn’t. The film is such a poem, and whenever I imagine Crash and Annie living together after the film ends, it makes me sort of sad. Shelton thought that showing Crash coaching in Visalia wouldn’t work; I always imagine the two of them on the porch swing in magical hour, the gray light atop the gray wood of Durham’s dilapidated structures, Annie’s big Victorian never looking better than in the summer evening, muted and softly lit inside, those beaded shades laid over the lamps.
But what would a retired Crash do for work? How could a hero like him field questions about bolts and gaskets at the local hardware store or sell lawn care chemicals from a call center? Maybe he and Annie would write his life story—she’s an amazing writer, which is evident in the narration she offers throughout the film. Maybe they’d write a movie called Bull Durham, and it would be a huge hit.
But who would play Crash and Annie? Maybe they’d land a monster deal with a Hollywood studio that would snag Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon for the lead roles. When the real couple meets the actors they find it a bit strange, but more lucky than anything else, that their imitators look exactly like them. The director wants to use Annie’s house, and though she’s hesitant about letting them replace the old knob-and-tube wiring and reroute a few air ducts to make room for cameras and lights, they assure her that everything will be put back in place, precisely the way it was before they shot the film. Crash has no need to work at this point since they received roughly a million dollars for the script. Annie keeps teaching her classes at the local community college because she enjoys it, and because she, I always imagined, already had plenty of money set aside, and so the million is pretty superfluous. She was already living the way she wanted to live, and when you’re living that way “any more money is just a chore,” she says to Crash, as the crew sets up to shoot the scene where Crash delivers his seduction speech and walks out, leaving Annie in a state of subdued hyperventilation, utterly hooked.
She’s hooked again as she watches Costner deliver those lines again and again: “I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.” Meanwhile, the real Crash standing next to her seems to lose a bit of luster with each take, as he remains silent while sipping a light beer, slightly less muscled and trim than Costner, who’s still smacking make-believe homers over every Triple-A wall from Toledo to Pawtucket, sweating out cheap whiskey under the summer sun, and overall just looking very alive.
Annie falls in love with Costner, and Crash can sense it, though she won’t admit it at first. She wants to write a sequel, but Crash thinks it’s a bad idea, even as Bull Durham tears up the box office. He doesn’t want to associate himself with Costner any more than he already has. He doesn’t like being mistaken for the actor while walking through the grocery store. He doesn’t like being recognized as Crash Davis while gulping a beer at the bar. But what he really hates is being pointed out as Kevin Costner and then watching the stargazers deflate as they realize it’s just Crash Davis.
He reveals all this to Annie, and she can’t help but use it as ammunition. “We could write about that! We could write a movie about the making of the movie!! No big Hollywood budgets this time. We’ll need an indie director who wants to really play with narrative. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. We’ll have Kevin and Susan play us, but they’ll play the ‘us’ watching the film being made about us. Oh my God, Crash, it’ll be infinite!”
Crash downs the last of his whiskey and laughs, “Listen to yourself. How could this be what you want? You almost had a stroke when they took out the wall—”
“They put it back.”
“Yes, they did, but that’s not the point. You don’t want them to tear up the house again.”
“They won’t have to.”
“Yes, they will,” he says, and pours himself so much bourbon that there’s now more in his short glass than in the bottle. They’re going to have to film it. They’re going to have,” he chuckles again, “to film a film crew filming inside the house! A real film crew is going to have to shoot a fake film crew, and actors playing real people, reacting to actors!”
“Crash, that’s brilliant! Wait, let me write this down. ‘Film a film crew filming—”
“No, no, don’t write that down.”
She keeps writing.
“I’m done with this,” he finally says, quietly, and finishes his drink.
Annie writes for a few more seconds, then freezes and looks up. “Done with what?”
“Wait. What? What’s ‘this’? What, your bourbon? Crash, what’s ‘this’?”
Crash looks toward the kitchen. “I just want us to go back to how things were, before our life was a movie. Can we do that? Can we have cereal and sex in the kitchen?”
Annie smirks. “Well, if you really things to go back to how they were, we’ll have to call Nuke back down from the majors.”
“Fine,” Crash smiles. “And I’ll keep developing him forever, but we’ll never send him up.”
“And I’ll want you,” Annie walks slowly toward him, “and want you to stay in this little ol’ town with me, in my big ol’ house, and fill it up with your empty glasses and speeches and stomping around?”
“Let’s go back.”
“How? Wait, does this mean what I think it means?”
“I think so.”
“You’ll watch it?!”
“Finally!!! I’ve already got the tape in the VCR. It’s all ready to go.”
“Wow, you knew I’d give in eventually, huh?”
“You always do.” And with that, Annie turns on her heel, giving her sun dress a bit of twirl and lift, moves to the corner to dim a lamp and grabs the remote. “But Annie?”
She bites her lip, winces a bit. “Okay. No sequel.”
Crash grabs a beer and plops down on the couch. For the next 90 minutes, they don’t speak. And when Annie’s monologue runs over images of Crash running the bases of his record-setting home run, he grabs the remote and hits STOP, walks upstairs without a word, and slams the door. Annie doesn’t move from the couch, staring at the electric emptiness of the turned on but blank TV, and sits motionless through a silent scene we never really wanted to see.