by | Mar 5, 2006 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Wow! The Oscars! I can’t believe I’m up here!

First, I’d like to thank the Academy. I have to admit, I was pretty scared when I took that role as a gay cowboy. But with “Brokeback Mountain,” I can see things have changed. Too bad I wasn’t in “Brokeback Mountain.” I played the gay cowboy in a movie called “La Cage Aux Folsom.”

It didn’t do so well.

Anyhow, I learned a valuable lesson there. I learned that I wasn’t really the “controversial” type and that I was better suited toward playing famous singers, such as Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line.” I’m so proud of that film.

I wish I had been in it.

Unfortunately, I played Johnny Cash in another film, a Nashville version of “West Side Story” called “West Texas Story.” It didn’t do so well. There aren’t a lot of country music gangs. And El Paso isn’t New York.

But as you can see, it taught me another valuable lesson – that maybe I wasn’t “lead” actor material. Maybe I was more a supporting actor type. So when the role of Russell Crowe’s boxing manager in “Cinderella Man” came up, I jumped at it.

Too bad I didn’t get it. I did get the role of a boxing manager in “Rocky 8,” but that never got made, since the producers were sued for using a title without permission. I think they’re in jail now, or something.

Plenty of jobs in Hollywood

Anyhow, as we say in the business, no regrets, because if all that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be up at this podium right now. It was clear that my Hollywood dreams lay behind the camera. Which is what led to my directing work on “Crash.”

I didn’t actually direct the movie. I directed the traffic in the studio parking lot. Still, I felt a big part of the experience, especially when I blew my whistle and that golf cart “crashed” into that Buick. It was like karma, you know?

Ohmigosh! Is that the red light already? I’ll be quick! Hang on!

Anyhow, the stress of directing led me to discover my real talent. I threw myself into screenplays. I’ve always loved writing. And finally, after countless drafts and long, hard hours in front of the typewriter, well, as you probably know, it was “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Not the movie.

The sentence.

That was what the studio exec told me, before he had me removed from his office. “Good night, and good luck.” I still don’t think the cop had to grab me by my nose.

But, hey, no hard feelings. Because if that hadn’t happened, I might not be here right now.

I never would have discovered makeup.

All the world’s a stage

To be honest, I didn’t always know that makeup was important. But I soon realized an actor is nothing without it. Can you imagine if we’d tried to do “The Chronicles of Narnia” without makeup? You couldn’t tell the Lion from the Witch OR the Wardrobe!

Anyhow, I am so proud of the work we did on “Chronicles.” It’s just such rotten luck that our movie came out so close to theirs, and that ours was called “The Chronicles of Sarnia.” I personally thought ours was better, even if we shot the whole thing in Ontario, and our budget was only $5,000 (Canadian).

But that’s OK. If that hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be here talking about my work in “Munich.” Not the movie. The city. I did a stint with a German mime troupe.

Don’t ask.

But failure, they say, is the best teacher. And without that setback – and without all the others – I would never have gotten the chance to stand on this stage. So I want to say to everyone out there, and everyone here in Hollywood, you just gotta believe, you gotta stand by your dreams. And never forget that when one door closes, another opens.

That’s what we ushers say.

(Tap, tap.) Hello? Is this thing ON?

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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