If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t have laid odds that I would be linked with Alec Baldwin and Charlie Sheen on this shining Sunday morning. I woke up today to about 20 well-meaning Facebook friends and family members sending me the Huffington Post Blog by Alec Baldwin who characterized me as an untalented, beady-eyed throat-slasher. I am fortunate that enough of my friends keep my name on “Google alert” to let me know when I have once again been proclaimed or besmirched, these days it’s largely besmirching!
I groggily got out of bed, went to the mirror and checked out my eyes. Alex Baldwin is right! They are pretty darn small. It is mind- boggling that I have lived all these years and did not realize I had eyes not as small as buttons, but as small as beads.
Over time, it is difficult to watch talented people (apparently I am not one of them ) from Charlie Sheen, Judy Garland, Michael Jackson, Mel Gibson, and John Belushi acting out in outlandish and tragic ways . I believe their crisis is a metaphysical one. A well respected and award-honored actress gave me the insight on this several years ago. Recognized not only for her shining talent, she was also notoriously recognized for being late for her call times on movies. She “acted out” by first missing the planes to the distant locations, whether it be NYC, Rome, or Beijing. She would inevitably be late to the set . It was difficult to pry out of her trailer or dressing room when we were shooting. Sometimes it took hours, keeping an entire crew waiting and burning up human and monetary capital.
I asked her one day what was the problem.
“I worry that I won’t be able to find it again.”
“Find what, darling?” (that’s Hollywood for “mam”)
“The gift,” she replied.
I looked at her puzzled.
“After all, “ she continued, “ why should an unattractive person like me have this thing….this thing that wins me academy awards and Honorary degrees from Universities? I am nothing.”
It was an honest and heartbreaking answer. She could not reconcile herself with her gift. Yet, all of us are gifted. And we can spend a life time rebelling against those gifts and not understanding from where they come. And we can proclaim ourselves as “winning” with the “Tiger Blood” running through our veins. We can even proclaim ourselves as gods.
It is clear what scripture says about the gift : the gift is irrevocable. “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.” (Romans 11:29) So we can hold press conferences , act out ,commit every possible sin against the one who has given us this gift, trash it and pummel it but God is faithful and never, ever takes the gift away. He allows us to continue to work through all the talents he has given us, whether for noble or common purpose, whether for public or private display, come hell or high water. Every one who breathes has gifts. Even my “beady eyes” are a gift.
But I believe the cosmic struggle for the truly gifted becomes, “why me?”
After-all, and I can hear it all…“I don’t have an education. I am a terrible person. I am too fat. I’m from a small town. I am too short. I am not popular. Why should I be making $20 million a year and my brother can not pay his rent?” Like the actress of 20th century history, most of us do not realize that all gifts come from our God. Quite simply, the story of human history is man rebelling against God and the gifts we are all given.
People often mistake the notion of “meek”. Meek does not mean “timid”. “Meek” or “meeking” comes from a process developed by Greek stable-masters to bring wild, young, undisciplined colts into serving stallions. Meek actually means “strength under control”. I can pretty much speak for all Hollywood “bad boys” including Alec Baldwin and myself, when I say we have all been out of control; and that we could all use a little “meeking”. In fact, that is all part of life: to bring our gifts under discipline. This is why, Jesus Christ in the Aramaic language spoke a Greek term when he said, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the world.”(Matthew 5:5) In many respects, meeking is the journey of our lives: to achieve our destiny through our gift.
The thrust of Alec Baldwin’s blog surrounds an incident that
occurred in 1991 when I was a “studio boss” at Paramount Pictures and he had played Jack Ryan in Paramount’s movie version of Tom Clancey’s best seller, The Hunt For Red October. In those days, both of us were unbridaled; we were big personalities. We were not under God. And we were not exactly meek. In fact, we believed we were golden, immortal and incapable of death; albeit he was the tall and good-looking god and I was the balding, beady-eyed one.
Fundamentally, the reason that Alec Baldwin and I ended our relationship over the character of the Jack Ryan franchise was an issue of trust. We did not trust one another to continue in the enterprise. The negotiations to continue as Jack Ryan had drawn out for almost a year and he was nervous over controls, as he was the man on camera and he had a right to be; yet, I had a responsibility, working for a publicly-traded company to keep the franchise alive. The greatest myth of the Twenty First century is that people are good. We aren’t. We’re not morally neutral. I know that’s a terribly unpopular thing to say in the world today, but it happens to be true. The fundamental problem with learning how to reason through ethical solutions is that it doesn’t give you a mechanism to override your natural tendency to do what is wrong. This is what C.S. Lewis-whose writings including Mere Christianity, have had such a profound influence on my life says. It’s not inclusive or popular or in vogue , but the only way to get beyond ourselves is to let God take over. As John the Baptist said,“ He becomes more as I become less” At the center of Christ’s teaching are only two fundamental laws: love God, love others.
Alec Baldwin withdrew from the project , Patriot Games, over an issue of script approval: I wanted him to approve a script and he refused. We amicably parted ways. But if we could have been in a place of goodness that the Lord resides, we would have gotten beyond our own egos to a place where men of honor stand. At the end of the day, the core of meeking is giving your strength and your status and your “stuff” over to higher purpose.
Harrison Ford whom I had worked with on the Indiana Jones
series and on one of my favorite movies, Witness, was sent the script and said he would do it. We trusted one another because of the trails by fire we had already endured together making movies, through the bad times and the good times. It’s as simple as that; we have found honor with one another. Arguably, Harrison Ford was the biggest star in the earthly world at that time. The casting of Harrison Ford over a lesser star Alec Baldwin in the ongoing epoch of Jack Ryan in Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger was unheard of.
Alec Baldwin is a gifted actor. I have been in awe of his brilliant abilities since the 1986 mini-series, Dress Grey. He has a seering intelligence in his poryrayals and he has developed his skills in comedy with his memorable performances in 30 Rock and It’s Complicated. He would have been a great Jack Ryan if there had only be trust between everyone. However, nothing can survive in a house divided and we have witnessed that time and time again. My love and admiration for Alec Baldwin has grown over the years; and I say that not to be self righteous but to be righteous to my creator.
Life is a miracle. And today, Alex Baldwin is going to be surprised with his Google alert tonight when he goes to his bed realizing he is linked not only to me and Charlie Sheen, but also to C S Lewis, Harrison Ford and Jesus Christ.