Bonnie Bedelia: 'The Hill' character 'sees the God in' Rickey Hill

Bonnie Bedelia stars in "The Hill." Photo courtesy of Manfred Baumann
1 of 6 | Bonnie Bedelia stars in "The Hill." Photo courtesy of Manfred Baumann

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The Hill, in theaters Friday, tells the story of how Rickey Hill (Colin Ford) overcame a physical disability to play major league baseball. Bonnie Bedelia, who plays Hill's grandmother, said Gram saw a miracle in Rickey.

"She obviously believes in God and sees the God in Rickey," Bedelia, 75, told UPI in a Zoom interview before the SAG-AFTRA strike. "I think she recognizes God in his spirit, in his passion and his dream of being a baseball player."


The Ricky Hill Story

Rickey was born with a degenerative spinal condition and wore braces on his legs growing up. Nevertheless, he became such a powerful batter that he played four professional seasons for the Montreal Expos from 1975 to 1978.

The film depicts Rickey's triumph over adversity, including the disapproval of his father, James (Dennis Quaid), a Baptist preacher. Bedelia said James wasn't necessarily wrong to discourage Rickey's baseball dreams.


"In fairness to him, he doesn't want to see his son go down the rabbit hole," Bedelia said. "How are you going to be a baseball player if you can't walk? So he's protecting him in a way by not encouraging him."

Ricky never gained the ability to run, so the Expos ultimately hired him on the strength of his batting alone. Bedelia said Gram saw no harm in believing in Rickey.

"She's Ricky's biggest defender," Bedelia said of Gram. "I think she also believes in miracles."

The real Gram and Rickey Hill

Though it is Gram's son-in-law who is the preacher, Bedelia said Gram came from a religious background. Born in the late 1800s, Gram experienced real hardship, Bedelia said.

"She went all through the '10s and the' 20s and through the Depression, the '30s," Bedelia said. "This takes place in the '60s and she's already an old broad. She's very religious, very God fearing, I think."

Bedelia met the real Rickey when he visited the set, now more than 40 years after his MLB career. Hill, now near Gram's age, impressed Bedelia, but the only thing he shared about his grandmother was her name, which is never mentioned in the film.


"He's a real person and not who you had in your mind," Bedelia said. "He certainly isn't Colin Ford. He's an older guy now."

Die Hard and other Bonnie Bedelia classics

Bedelia has been acting professionally since she was a teenager. Though perhaps best known as Bruce Willis's wife in the popular Die Hard, Bedelia also starred in films like They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, The Boy Who Could Fly, Fat Man and Little Boy and six seasons of NBC's Parenthood series.

After Die Hard 2, the series wrote out Holly McClane (Bedelia) via divorce. There was a sixth Die Hard in development before Willis' retirement from acting.

Bedelia noted that the sequels cast Mary Elizabeth Winstead as John and Holly's daughter, now grown up, to be the female lead with Willis. Bedilia said she accepted that Hollywood typically favors younger leading women, despite the male hero's age.

"There'd be no reason why I couldn't still be in, it but that's just the way it goes," Bedelia said. "It's screwed. It really is kind of weird."

Even though she still gets the most fan mail for Die Hard, Bedelia said she was not disappointed to be left out of sequels. Bedelia said her role in the original was mainly sitting in the office while the men engage in all the action.


The sequel literally sat her in a circling plane. So even if John and Holly could have reunited in a Die Hard 6, Bedelia would have been selective about deciding to return.

"If I did come back, with Holly and John getting back together, they would have had to give me something more to do," Bedelia said.

One reason Die Hard remains relevant, besides being a landmark action movie of the '80s, is that people debate it every Christmas. Since the film takes place on Christmas Eve, fans argue about whether or not it is a Christmas movie.

Bedelia said she agrees with fans who claim Die Hard as a Christmas movie.

"It's not It's a Wonderful Life and it's not A Christmas Story, but it's more fun," Bedelia said. "It has a tree in the office. That's about it really, but I'll go along with it, sure. It's a new Christmas classic."

Another Bedelia film is getting a new adaptation. She played the wife of a lawyer (Harrison Ford) accused of murder in the 1990 adaptation of Presumed Innocent.

David E. Kelley is readapting Scott Turow's book for Apple TV+. Jake Gyllenhaal will star, but Bedelia would like to revisit the material in a new role.


"I'd love to do a cameo in it," Bedelia said. "I wouldn't be the same character, of course, but Harrison wouldn't be in it, either."

There's no murder or fighting in The Hill, though. Bedelia said she found the story inspiring as Rickey's love for the sport persevered over his physical disabilities.

"He just had passion and achieved a dream of his against all odds," Bedilia said. "What a great story."

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