Thursday, May 22, 2003


One of our Act One alumns, Dan Ewald has a good interview article with Tom Shadyac over on CCM. It basically fills in a bit more of Tom's theology and personal journey. Here's a snip:

Some people are surprised when they learn that the director of such outrageous and bawdy comedies [as Ace Ventura and Liar, Liar] is a Christian. Shadyac is cautious when talking about religion because so many of his peers in Hollywood have a distorted view of Christianity and what it means to follow Jesus. On the other hand, he believes that the church also has an unclear view of show business. "I think people in America generally view Hollywood as an atheistic place, and I don’t see it [that way]," says Shadyac. "There are some very God-centered people who I’m honored to know and share a profession with. When I knock on their trailer doors and see the books they’re reading, it surprises me."

Shadyac says he’s quite the book worm as well. One of his favorite authors and greatest influences on his career is Madeleine L’Engle. "To read a book like Walking on Water 10 times over is very encouraging, knowing that someone understands the struggle of being a Christian and wanting to be a storyteller," Shadyac admits. "She was accused of everything from [practicing] witchcraft to being a heretic for A Wrinkle in Time. She understands the challenge to be in the world, yet depict faith and belief in God through your stories."

Walking on Water poses questions like: What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Shadyac believes it is his faith in God that differentiates him as a director. "I’ve spoken at several religious conferences, and the movie they’re always showing is The Mission—which is wonderful—but they miss movies like Scent of a Woman, which is basically the book of Ecclesiastics," Shadyac says with marked enthusiasm. "Christians think that to write a religious or spiritual movie, it has to have a priest, minister, nun or a church in it. But Jesus told stories that had seemingly nothing on the surface to do with religion, yet they were spiritual stories. He told stories about a farmer, a man who had two sons and the parable of the 10 virgins. We tell stories—and this one in particular is about Bruce Nolan, who is a reporter."

Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is a local journalist, hoping to land the anchor job that just opened up. But like Job’s experience in the Bible, life turns ugly for him. He gets fired, a rival reporter gets the job, and Bruce is beaten up for trying to help a homeless man who has been roughed up by a street gang. On the way home, he asks God for a sign to show him He still cares. "We’re so drowned out by the noise in our head that we [often] don’t see signs from God," explains the director. "That’s what happens to Bruce. God is pretty much all over his life at the beginning of the movie, but Bruce is too blinded by his own agenda, selfishness and self-indulgence to see the signs."

Cut to the next day. Bruce Nolan’s pager goes off repeatedly. He throws it out of the window, where it gets run over by a truck. Cut to the day after. Again Bruce hears his beeper, but it’s going off in the middle of the street. It has been smashed to pieces, yet it is still working. He calls the number and is asked to come in for a job interview held in a warehouse. This is where he meets God (Morgan Freeman) and blames the Almighty for all his troubles.

It’s something that most people—even Christians if they’re being honest—have done at one point or another. Shadyac confesses: "I have a very honest relationship with God. If I experience disappointment, struggle or anger, I will express it honestly. It’s a relationship. The answers for me come so much quicker when I’m honest." Shadyac says he believes that God is big enough to handle our human emotions. Besides, nothing is hidden from Him. "It’s silly to put up any kind of dishonesty. There’s nothing wrong with me saying, ‘God, you know what? I don’t know what You’re doing. Apparently You do know what You’re doing because You’ve taken care of me up to now, but I don’t like this. I, as a human being, take exception to Your divine plan."

We had Tom at Inter-Mission the other night and he said a lot of very encouraging God-related things. But he impressed me much more at the end of the evening when, suddenly, throngs of actor, writer and director wanna-bees all surrounded him asking for personal advice or just to have a peice of him somehow. Tom sat there on the stage surrounded for well-over another hour, speaking very gently and encouragingly to every single person. It was very lovely.

Celebrity is tough, and many people do not handle it with anywhere near the grace and humility that Tom has. I remember one event in the recent past, in which one celebrity-type told the audience that if they wanted to be great filmmakers, they needed to be people of compassion who really love their characters. As soon as the speech was done, this same celebrity high-tailed it out of the room not making any eye contact with any of the people there presumably as some kind of defence-mechanism against being hit up for something. It had the effect of making all the people there feel a little small. As though they would be the kind of clinging desparates who might sully this celebrity. Even if some of them would've it was, well, rude. The eveniing's message ended up being that if you want to be a good filmmaker, you have to love your characters, but it's okay to treat real people like garbage.

The rolling of eyeballs...

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