On the 20th anniversary of the film that made him famous, Tom Guiry reflects on his career
Tom Guiry was shy as a child. He was so shy, in fact, that the teachers at his Brooklyn elementary school gently nudged him into the spotlight when it came time to put on the school play in an attempt to break him out of his shell.
They certainly succeeded. Guiry caught the acting bug and, just a few years later, landed the starring role of Scotty Smalls in the 1993 film The Sandlot.
“I think that was, like, my sixth audition,” he said. “I got the part and stuck with it.”
The Sandlot is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary with a tour. Minor league and major league ballparks all across the country are screening the film following games. The tour’s first stop was at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton on April 13, and director David Mickey Evans and Guiry were in attendance.
Now 31 and a father of three, Guiry still lives in Hamilton with his family. His most recent role was in the television show Elementary. To make ends meet between acting jobs, he transports patients to and from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Hamilton.
“I always come home,” he said. “Jersey’s always been my home base. I’m just an East Coast person. I love living here. I love Hamilton. I love raising my children here.”
Guiry and his family moved to Hamilton when he was 8-years old. They started to explore the area theater scene and ended up at McCarter Theater, where Guiry auditioned for and was cast in A Christmas Carol. He met his agent—with whom he still works after 20 years—through McCarter and began to venture into on-camera acting.
The Sandlot was his first major role.
“I hadn’t been in front of a camera before,” he said. “To take a lead role on like that, usually you want a kid with a little bit of experience. He had a little faith in me, and I thank him for that. If I didn’t get the part, I don’t know if I would have pursued acting any further.”
April 13 was the first time they had seen each other since 1994.
“It was great to see him,” Guiry said. “He was kind of like the boss when I was a kid. Now, you see him as more of a friend. You can appreciate what a funny guy he is.”
Guiry and Evans were scheduled to sign autographs until the end of the third inning, but they continued on through the sixth and even after the game due to the turnout.
Guiry said he’s astounded that the film still has an impact 20 years after its release.
“It’s kind of surreal,” he said. “When we were making it, I never thought that 20 years later people would be getting a kick out of it. We were just lucky to see it get released. It’s really nice.”
The film launched Guiry’s career and helped him get roles in movies like Mystic River, Black Hawk Down, U-571 and Tigerland. He starred in the television show The Black Donnellys and has appeared in CSI: Miami and Law & Order.
He made the move from Hamilton to Woodland Hills, Calif., in his 20s, but he moved back home shortly after. He still auditions, but rarely in person. He often records himself performing in order to spend more time with his family.
“Thank god for the Internet,” he said. “You just throw a video on the computer and send it out. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
Even with all of his other roles, Guiry’s part in The Sandlot persists as his most memorable. He thinks he knows why.
“It reminds people of the innocence of childhood,” he said. “I think that’s why a lot of adults still like the movie. It’s hard to get a family movie that is clean and funny and where the jokes don’t have to go over the kids’ heads. It’s one of the films that was able to pull that off. I get a kick out of the fact that people still appreciate the movie at 20. I think a lot of people can relate to it.”
Guiry was 11 years old when he was cast. He described shooting the movie as being “like summer camp.”
Guiry said the majority of his castmates live in California. Being one of the film’s only East Coasters, it was difficult for him to stay in touch with the rest of the boys.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “It would have been nice to keep in contact with them. It’s one of my regrets.”
“It was fun,” he said. “All I remember were good times. It was back before you had to worry about work and bills and all that kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun.”
One of the most “summer camp” moments from filming, he said, was shooting the movie’s Fourth of July scene. He called it a “magic hour shot” because they needed to start filming at just the right time.
“We got it just as the sun was coming down,” he said. “The fireworks were going off, Ray Charles’ “America” is playing in the background. We’re all running, and [actor Patrick Renna’s character] Ham’s trying to catch up with us, but he’s eating all the food. It was a really cool-looking shot. I think that’s my favorite because it also has all the kids, all their faces. It reminded me of my friends growing up. It was cool.”