James Earl Jones did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Terence Mann in Field of Dreams.
The first man this journey brings Ray to is a controversial and reclusive writer Terence Mann. The character was obviously based on J.D. Salinger to the point that in the original novel it simply was Salinger. Jones's first appearance in the film comes when Ray tracks him down, and Mann is not convinced by Ray's story. Jones puts the cynic in cynicism in his initial appearance as Mann playing him as a curmudgeon who wants nothing to do with his fan. Jones is actually rather funny in portraying Mann as he openly mocks Ray's optimism about being from the 60's and even threatening to beat him with a crowbar only being stopped after Ray reminds Mann that he's a pacifist. This causes him to comically scoff which Jones does deliver quite well. Jones actually makes this work, even though it may appear slightly at odds with the character just the next set of scenes, in that he manages to make it seem as this is likely Mann's usual standard treatment for his fans who are crazy enough to track him down.
The next scenes, while Mann still needs some convincing, are taken a bit more seriously as Mann states his reasons for his reclusive life as well as why he has problems with people who expect too much of him. Jones manages to bridge this gap quite well as he plays these scenes as though Mann's talking much more from the heart. That heart being also quite filled a general pessimism and anger about the way things have turned out. Jones realizes Mann's current state quite well, but this does not last too long as he soon sees a vision as well. Jones makes the transition fairly natural as he portrays at least at first more of a mystification than a whole understanding of what's going on, and what exactly it means. When the two of them go on their guest to find a local doctor who was very briefly a major league baseball player things seem to change a bit. Unfortunately they find the man is already dead, so Mann goes about researching him, and Jones is rather affecting by showing the way Mann seems to quietly find some encouragement for optimism again through Doc's reputation.
This only seems to continue once Ray finally brings Mann back to the field where all the deceased baseball players have come back to life to play again. Jones is actually does a lot merely in portraying the reaction of Terence to the miraculous event. Jones actually just does well by showing what an average person's reaction would be which is surprise followed by a form of disbelief. Jones effectively also attaches to Mann personally as he seems to slowly lose all cynicism. For a long time in the final scenes of the film Jones is merely silent, but does quite a bit in the way he presents Mann soaking all of it in. He builds up the spirit that seems to be enlivening Mann up until he finally gives his big speech about what baseball means exactly. Jones delivers it with all the passion and invigoration of a man whose found a renewed view of life itself. This is a good performance by James Earl Jones and it fits right into the films tone. Jones work probably does not really get into the real gritty details of what would make a guy like Mann tick, rather it sticks to simpler and broader gestures which is what the film advocates, and Jones thrives within the film.
Lancaster only actually has two scenes, one in which is fairly short, but the first is fairly long when Ray runs into the late doctor in the past. Lancaster matches the description of the character of the Doc completely as he carries such a strong yet quiet dignity about himself. Even when Ray is just asking who he is, Lancaster exudes just a special warmth that suggests the sort of man that would be respected, and loved by those around him. Lancaster does not just leave Doc as such as he brings out a different side of the man when Ray asks about the one inning that he played in the Major Leagues. Lancaster in the moment changes Doc's demeanor slightly as the enthusiasm of a younger man seems to spring out, and he wonderfully suggests the past where he very briefly got to live his dream. Lancaster does not leave it as a moment just joy though as he conveys a bit of longing in the Doc. Not something great to the point that it truly bothers, yet he can't help but feel a bit of sadness in the fact that he got to live his dream, but did it so briefly that he never wholly achieved it.
Lancaster continues to tap into a certain nostalgic feeling as the Doc describes his one wish to Ray, which would be to bat in a major league game just once. Lancaster creates the sense of just how much the idea means to the old man, and in his eyes there is that desire to have perhaps lived a different life. Lancaster does not leave Doc on the note of longing though as he turns down Ray's offer to return with him to the Field of Dreams. Lancaster is very moving as the doc tells Ray that what he was always meant to be was a doctor. Lancaster beautifully shows that in the end doc is wholly satisfied in his life, and in the end seems to have preferred how things turned out. His final smile sums it up, as it is one of a man who has lived a good life with baseball bring a dream that was not necessary for happiness. Lancaster has one appearance late in the film that is basically a shorter version of his earlier scene, as the Doc once more confirms what baseball means to him, but also what it doesn't mean. Lancaster's final exit is probably one of the most memorable and fitting of a final scene of any actor's career. This is a good performance and worthy to be Lancaster's last, although I must admit his performance is not my favorite of the film, and I'm not talking about Jones.