My afternoon with The Sandlot's Scotty Smalls
Seems, random right? But I promise it’s not apropos of nothing. Tom Guiry (a.k.a. The Sandlot‘s Scotty Smalls) has a film at the Tribeca Film Festival titled Yonkers Joe, in which he plays a young guy with downs syndrome (pictured, right) whose hostility has gotten him kicked out of the institution where he lives. This means dad (Chazz Palminteri, left), a gambling con man, and dad’s girlfriend (Christine Lahti) must take him back into their lives—and let’s just say, they have a lot to work out in their historically contentious father-son relationship. “It’s probably one of the hardest roles I’ve had,” says Guiry, “just the fear I had of being able to pull it off.” (In my humble opinion, he does.)
Aside from Yonkers, it just so happens that April was the 15th anniversary of The Sandlot, so for fun, Guiry and I began our afternoon yesterday at the Chelsea Piers batting cages to, you know, emulate The Babe. Get the full scoop, after the jump!
When you’re an actor in a film that becomes a classic, it’s hard tolive it down. For starters, Guiry’s now 27, old enough to smoke hisCamels and drink red wine (and yes, we drowned our sorrows in the latter following our poor display of connecting bat with ball). Guiry’s hadmany, many roles in the last decade and a half (Mystic River, U-571, The Black Donnellys, Law & Order), but people still geek out with him about The Sandlot.And he still gets recognized for it. “Little kids don’t miss a trick,”he says, as we walk to The Half King, a bar co-owned by authorSebastian Junger that Guiry’s haunted with the L&O folksbefore. “I don’t think I look like Scotty Smalls anymore, but anywhereI go—if I go to the mall—and there’s a kid between 6 and 12, theynotice me. They’re like, ‘Smalls!’ Even now.”
Growing up, Guiry used to hate the recognition, but now, as thefather of an 8-year-old son named Michael, he embraces it. “When he wasabout 5, I tried to get him to watch The Sandlot and he’d belike, ‘Turn this off, this is daddy movie,’” says Guiry, with that sameScotty Smalls smile. “But then he got into little league when he wasabout 7, in Hawaii, and all of his friends liked the movie. He waslike, ‘That’s my dad,’ and they didn’t believe him. So I was like, I’llbe there in a week. I go there and I pick him up from school. All ofthe kids get excited, ‘It really is him.’ It made my kid’s day, man.That was probably the happiest moment of all my life.”
Eight yearsprior, Guiry was wigged out at the prospect that hewas going to be a father at the age of 18. He was shooting U-571at the time in Italy with Matthew McConaughey. “She was the first girlI was ever with—believe it or not. And I found out she was pregnant. Ididn’t have any money, I spent all of my money on beer and jet-skiingso I couldn’t afford a trip to go see her. But Matthew McConaugheyheard about it because I was friends with his assistant, and he put meon a plane and put me up in a hotel. He did me a big solid. God worksin mysterious ways. At the time, I thought this was the worst thingthat could ever happen to me–and now, it’s the best thing I’ve got.”
In terms of his career, Guiry is content being under the radar,picking up a role here and there so long as he makes enough bank to payhis mortgage in New Jersey and care for his son. He had a regular roleas Jimmy Donnelly on The Black Donnellys last year, but NBCcancelled the show after only six episodes (the remaining seven airedonline). “I miss the paycheck,” he laughs. “I was very bummed out, butthat’s TV. All that mattered is we gave it our best shot.”
For now, thenative New Yorker is waiting to see if Yonkers gets picked up for national distribution, and is getting ready to play a boxer in Rat Bastards, a film based on the New York Timesbest-seller about the Boston Irish mafia. “I have to eat salads nowbecause I have to drop about 10 pounds, and I only weigh about 140,” hesays. “I miss burgers, man.” He’s right: nothing like an Americanpastime. (And for the record, I hit more balls than Scotty Smalls.)