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Sal Iacono was the first notable name to walk Friday night’s red carpet at NeueHouse Hollywood ahead of the world premiere of ESPN’s new 30 for 30 installment, Once Upon a Time in Queens. While he was eager to discuss his role in executive producing the series alongside that famous cousin of his, Jimmy Kimmel, Iacono couldn’t help but keep one eye on the other coast.
“It’s eight to two, right now, and the Mets are up,” Iacono, a lifelong and “diehard” New York Mets fan like Brooklyn-bred Kimmel, reported to The Hollywood Reporter upon arriving. “So, maybe they’ll take back the city once again.” [Update: The Mets did emerge victorious with a 2-1 series win over the Yankees.]
That’s the focus of Once Upon a Time in Queens — how the Mets captivated a country and secured Big Apple bragging rights over the Yankees through a thrilling (and rollercoaster) season in 1986 when the team clinched a World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox, four games to three. No mention of the team’s World Series run is complete without plenty of ink devoted to the wild Game 6 that saw the Red Sox one strike away from the championship on two occasions before the Mets came from behind with two outs and nobody on.
Plenty of airtime in the series is devoted to that game but Once Upon a Time in Queens also goes deep in telling the complete story of the Mets franchise at the time, thanks to archival footage and interviews with star players Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Mookie Wilson and others. The Nick Davis-directed, four-episode series debuts Sept. 14, and guests at the premiere — including Julie Bowen, Maria Menounos, Anna Camp, Oscar Nunez, Mark Feuerstein, Kimmel sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez, ESPN Film’s senior director of development Adam Neuhaus, among others — were treated to the first two.
Kimmel, arriving with wife Molly McNearney, took the baton from Iacono when he arrived to share with THR how the project came to the pair, his favorite scene from the series and what he found most surprising after revisiting the historic season for his beloved Mets.
As a lifelong Mets fan, it seems this would be a dream come true to be involved with …
How did it come together?
It was totally out of the blue. It’s not something that I set out to do. There’s a guy named Nick Davis who’s a great director. He directed the Ted Williams documentary [Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived] on PBS and he contacted us. For whatever reason, he felt we could help push this thing through, and we were very excited about it. You get contacted about a lot of things, and every once in a while, there’s something that requires no thinking. It’s an immediate, “Yes.”
What was your role? I heard you gave some notes. Did you help wrangle?
Yeah. I did more than I expected I was going to be doing (laughs.) Of course, we were involved heavily in the editing. But there’s no question, Nick did 98 percent of the work. I got some music cleared. I called LL Cool J. I got a lot of the people who are interviewed in the special, in the special. George R.R. Martin is in there. Oliver Stone. John McEnroe. Cyndi Lauper, whose music is playing right now [at the premiere]. People that you might not expect to see in a sports documentary.
I loved seeing those surprise cameos like George R.R. Martin. And I hope maybe you helped land an agent for Keith Hernandez’s cat, who makes a special appearance…
I’m glad you picked up on the cat because I think the cat is going to become internet famous.
That cat is a meme waiting to happen.
You’re absolutely right.
There are so many great moments in the series, and I’m wondering what your favorite section is? The shot of Mookie Wilson seems to be up there…
That shot is the best shot of the documentary and some of the best camera work I’ve ever seen. One of the local news guys got a shot of Mookie Wilson when … It’s hard to explain. It follows Mookie from the field to the locker room and into the celebration in one long incredible shot. The only thing you can really compare it to is Goodfellas. It’s great camera work. It never falters for a moment.
As a super fan, is there anything else in the series — either through interviews or archival footage — that surprised you?
The relationships that most of these players had with their fathers were difficult. It’s fun to see people doing drugs and sex and all of that stuff, but it’s not so much fun for them. It’s fun for them for a while. But after a while, it’s not a fun thing. It really gives you a sense of the human beings who were a part of this story.
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