Larry Vaughn with Mentora Vaughn Gratrix
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Author Archive

He Had Me at Carrots! Remembering Gilbert Blythe…

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Maybe you don’t think I’m good enough for you now, but I will be someday.
— Gilbert Blythe

Jonathan Crombie, better known as Gilbert Blythe, passed away last Wednesday from a brain hemorrhage at the age of forty-eight. The news was devastating, not only for me, but for so many other women . . . and men (my brothers never liked to admit it because it wasn’t cool, but I knew better!), who like me grew up watching the classic miniseries Anne of Green Gables. Honestly, Gilbert Blythe had me at “carrots!” No one could get under Anne Shirley’s skin like Gilbert Blythe. While their tantalizing love story kept me on a rollercoaster of emotions, Gilbert’s unfailing love and patience in his pursuit of Anne Shirley made him, well, quite irresistible.

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Anne, wait! I’m sorry for teasing you about your hair.
Don’t be mad at me for keeps.

In a very real sense, the memory of Jonathan Crombie will continue to live on. Unlike most of us, actors have a unique legacy because we can watch their films long after they’re gone. Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley were my role models growing up. During my dating years, I gave guys such a hard time (not on purpose); but deep down inside, I realize now I just wanted someone willing to patiently woo me, as Gil did with Anne.

And thankfully Gilbert’s legacy will continue. My girls and I are in the middle of reading Anne of Green Gables, and I am anxious to finish the book so we can watch the movie together. I can’t wait to watch their reaction as they meet Gilbert Blythe for the first time. I hope they too will admire his patience, kindness, and strength and that they will look for those characteristics when they are old enough to have a man in their life. And most importantly, I hope they learn that it’s okay to be complicated as a woman—and, yes, even a challenge. Why? Because every girl wants to have this conversation someday:

Anne Shirley: You just think that you love me.
Gilbert Blythe: Anne, I’ve loved you as long as I can remember. I need you. 

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Perhaps LOVE unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship.. as a golden hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 

USA TODAY’s writer Jayme Deerwester wrote a tribute to Jonathan Crombie’s life:

Crombie is best remembered for his work as Gilbert. He was never bothered by the fame it brought him and even answered to the name Gil when recognized on the street, [Jonathan Crombie’s sister, Carrie] says.

“I think he was really proud of being Gilbert Blythe and was happy to answer any questions,” she told the CBC. “He really enjoyed that series and was happy, very proud of it — we all were,” she said.

The son of former Toronto mayor and Canadian Cabinet minister David Crombie, he beat out fellow Canadian and future 90210 star Jason Priestly for the role. “We never screen-tested him,” Green Gables producer Kevin Sullivan told the CBC. “We met him and he was cast. It was a perfect storm. … It just all worked perfectly.”

“I think for legions of young women around the world who fell in love with the Anne of Green Gables films, Jonathan literally represented the quintessential boy next door,” he said, explaining the actor’s appeal.

“I think there will be hundreds of people who will be floored that this has happened,” he said of Crombie’s sudden passing. “It’s such a devastating tragedy. In reality, Jonathan was as generous, as kind, as sensitive and as ambitious, in some ways, as the character he came to be identified with.”

Keeping in character with his kind, generous alter ego, Crombie’s organs were donated.

Throughout his acting career, Crombie traveled back and forth between New York and Toronto via bus. “That’s how we are going to be bringing him back,” his sister explained to the CBC. “We felt that it was an ode to Jonathan. He would never go on a plane, so we’re going to make the trek from New York to Toronto on a bus with his ashes.”

Read the entire article here: www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2015/04/18/jonathan-crombie-anne-of-green-gables-death/25994191/

 

Are You Tired of “Churchianity” this Easter?

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 After death something new begins, over which all powers of the world of death have no more might.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Easter Sunday is one of the most attended church services each year. When I was at the pinnacle of my career in the Hollywood entertainment industry, my wife, Doneata, ruined my dinner one night when she shared the news with me that she had become a Christian. I had always disliked Christians and certainly wasn’t thrilled at the thought of being married to one. I was happy with my life and accomplishments, and I didn’t want anything—especially God—to mess up my life in any way. However, at the time our son, David, was sick, and I thought Doneata probably needed God in her life to help her cope with his illness. Of course my worst nightmare became a reality when I found myself sitting in church one Sunday.

The next Sunday I sat in a stiff pew, wondering why I agreed to go to church in the first place. I really didn’t care about seeing the new pastor. When Pastor Carey walked up to the podium, I was immediately taken back by his appearance. He wore brown alligator shoes and an off-white, western-cut, tight-fitting tailored suit. His shirt was expensive, with large French cuffs, and his tie was silk. I thought, “That tie seems a bit much for a preacher, but I guess it goes perfectly with his western attire.” He had long blond hair that he combed straight back, without a part in it. I guessed him to be in his early forties. He had the chest of an athlete and probably a thirty-six-inch waist. With no disrespect to a South Dallas used car salesman, that’s what the preacher reminded me of. I wondered, “Now what kind of a car is the preacher driving? I would bet cold hard cash that he drives either a Lincoln or a Cadillac.” Pastor Carey preached for about twenty minutes. During his message, he kept walking very quickly across the stage, going back and forth. He had the audience laughing and crying. Everyone but me seemed to be having a good time. I thought to myself, “This guy is not a preacher. He’s an entertainer.”

As we left the church, I told Doneata, “Let’s go by the pastor’s parking space. I’m sure he has an assigned space.” Doneata asked, “Why do you want to do that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m just curious about something.” If I had made a bet, I would have won. The preacher drove a shiny, two-toned, red-and-white Cadillac Eldorado.

The experience I had that Sunday with the new preacher turned me off from ever wanting to go back to Sunday school or church. I thought, “I have seen enough movies to know how a preacher is supposed to look, dress, and act.” I had gone to church that day expecting to meet a preacher who looked and acted like Spencer Tracy, or maybe Gary Cooper. What I found, however, was someone who looked and acted like Elvis!

I hated going to church and had zero respect for the new pastor. But thankfully, there is so much more to Christianity than simply going to church. Christianity is about a personal relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. When I look back on my life, I am amazed at how God called and saved me. I wasn’t seeking. I didn’t want Him. But one day—in one moment—everything changed for me.

When I pulled out my cigarettes from my shirt pocket, I noticed the tract I had picked up earlier at church. It was a small blue tract with a small picture on the front of a dove in flight. It took only a few minutes for me to read through it in its entirety. That little tract asked a very personal question that I had been asked before, but this time, for some unknown reason, it had my undivided attention. “Have you been born again? Have you experienced the spiritual rebirth Jesus said was absolutely necessary for entrance into heaven? This is the one thing, according to the Word of God, that will determine your eternal destiny.” I knew at that very moment what I had always known to be true—that I was an unsaved man. I knew that if I died that day I would spend eternity in hell. I continued reading from the tract. “The moment we open our hearts to the Lord Jesus and place our complete trust in Him—and Him alone—as our Savior, God promises to forgive our sins.”

I sat there on my sofa with tears streaming down my face wondering, “Why has it taken me so long to understand what a wretch I have been?” I got down on my knees and prayed a prayer and asked God to forgive me of my sins, to put a new heart in me, and to give me a desire to be more like His Son. That afternoon I became a Christian.
Excerpts from Hollywood’s Chosen

While living in Miami, I enjoyed listening to Keith Green. He had so much passion in his singing and in his love for Jesus. Keith Green said this at one of his concerts: “Just dare to believe in Him. There’s so many people around that are afraid because all they’ve seen of Jesus is Churchianity, or all they’ve seen of Jesus is religion. They’ve been turned off by the hypocrisy, but there is a real Jesus, and there are real Christians running around.” In 1982, Keith Green’s singing career was cut tragically short as he and two of his young children (three-year-old Josiah and two-year-old Bethany) were killed in an airplane crash. I still get goose bumps when I hear Keith Green’s “Easter Song.”

“At Least You Could Have Put Some Clothes On”- Meeting Frank Yablans

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Photo: Frank Yablans (right) on the set of The Fury with director Brian de Palma.

“In her memoir, Joan Didion said this about grief,
‘A single person is missing for you and the whole world is empty.'”
—Meryl Streep

This year at the Oscars, Meryl Streep honored those who passed away: “As we reflect tonight on the loss of so many talented people this year, it’s hard not to feel that emptiness because in the time they had they filled our lives with so much. Whatever role they played in moviemaking, the films that they were a part of made us laugh, and think, and cry, and consider life with fresh eyes: they tickled us, raised our spirits when we needed it, challenged our minds, and shocked our complacencies. Through their work, they shared a piece of their soul, and so we will miss them with the same sadness as we miss an old friend. But their work will stand and will remind us how lucky we were to have them with us for a while. There will never be anyone like them, each and every one.”

So many names honored that evening brought back fond memories. However, when I saw Frank Yablans, I smiled as I recalled my first meeting with him. . .

We planned a trip to California to introduce the studios to Ideas, Inc. Everyone seemed impressed with our work, but expressed concern about how their marketing departments would fit in with a so-called “joint marketing venture.” That had been my greatest concern all along.
On that trip I learned, once again, that one should never underestimate Heyward Morgan. One evening we were down at the hotel lounge around midnight. I was worn out from a long day of tooting my own horn to the Hollywood elite. I told Mr. Morgan, “I’ve had it. I’m going to bed.” He said good night and that he would be up later.
I went to my room, got in bed, and was half asleep when Mr. Morgan started banging on the door. “Larry, Larry, you in there?” In undershorts and T-shirt I stumbled to the door. I opened the door to find him standing there with another man. They walked into my room.
Mr. Morgan said, “Larry, do you know who this is?”
I looked at the man, extended my hand, and said, “No, sir.”
The man introduced himself. “Hello, Larry, I am Frank Yablans.”
I said, “Mr. Yablans, would you excuse me while I put some clothes on? I had just turned in for the night.”
Mr. Morgan spoke up. “Phooey with clothes, Larry, I told Frank all about your work. Where is your briefcase?”
Frank Yablans was not only one of the most respected producers in Hollywood, he was one of the most respected producers in the entire world. His movies were household names around the world. Besides being a celebrated producer and director, he was currently the President of Paramount Pictures. And there I was, undressed, hair messed up, sitting on the side of my wrinkled bed telling Frank Yablans how great I was.
He listened, asked questions, and made several positive comments about my campaigns. Then he said, “Fellows, I’m sold! Your work is very good, but you have to sell my marketing guys. Here, write this name and number down. Call Jackson’s secretary tomorrow and make an appointment to see him. Be sure to tell her I told you to call.”
We chatted a few more minutes before Mr. Yablans said good night and left the room. After Mr. Yablans had gone, I looked at Mr. Morgan and said, “Boss, if you ever pull a stunt like that on me again, I’ll shoot you!”
He laughed and said, “At least you could have put some clothes on.”
I slammed the door as he whisked out of the room. Needless to say, I was so wound up from the last hour’s events that I slept very little that night.
(Excerpt from Hollywood’s Chosen, available on Amazon)

Honestly, this story always reminds me of what a remarkable man I worked for—Heyward Morgan. Most movie stars of that day would have had a hard time getting Frank Yablans to visit their hotel room. That unexpected meeting showed me that Frank Yablans and I had something in common: we both had a hard time saying no to Heyward Morgan.

My Lunch with Leonard Nimoy & His Vulcan Ears

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A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP
—Leonard Nimoy
(shared on Twitter a few days before his death)

It would be hard to live on planet Earth and not know who Mr. Spock is from Star Trek. Even if you’re not a Star Trek fan (which would be hard to believe!), no one has worn Vulcan ears better than Leonard Nimoy. I, like so many other fans, was saddened to hear of the passing of Leonard Nimoy. While he had his share of struggles (like so many of us do), he will always be remembered for his contribution to Star Trek, as he would frequently “boldly go where no man has gone before.” I actually had the pleasure once of having lunch with Leonard Nimoy at Paramount Studios. Here’s an excerpt from Hollywood’s Chosen:

We spent the majority of the following day visiting the distribution arm at Paramount Studios. We had lunch with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy at the Paramount commissary. Mr. Shatner and Mr. Nimoy were taking a lunch break from filming their weekly Star Trek television series. Walter Matthau stopped by our table while on lunch break from filming the film version of the Neil Simon play, Plaza Suite.
A comical moment happened during lunch while Mr. Morgan (who always spoke extremely loudly) was speaking. Mr. Nimoy interrupted Mr. Morgan, cupped his Vulcan ear in his hand, and then leaned in toward Mr. Morgan and bellowed, “What? What did you say? My Vulcan ear makes it hard for me to hear.” I laughed out loud, as I couldn’t help but think, “Now, that’s got to be a first: asking Heyward Morgan to speak louder!”

leonard-nimoy-la-film-festival[1]

The Hollywood Reporter published an article by Kim Masters on February 27, 2015. (You can read the full article here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/how-leonard-nimoy-was-convinced-778379.) I love this story because it reminds me of so many behind-the-scenes stories that we share in Hollywood’s Chosen. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The original script for the first Star Trek movie did not include Mr. Spock.

The project was conceived as what would have then been the most expensive television project ever, with a budget of $3.2 million. When that vision died, Paramount — which had watched other studios feast on Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind — decided to make a movie instead.

With a planned $18 million budget, the studio courted director Robert Wise (West Side Story), who took the job not because he loved the old television series but because his wife and father-in-law were fans. Based on their comments on the script, he told the top film executives at Paramount, Michael Eisner and a young Jeffrey Katzenberg, that Spock was essential.

But there was a big problem. Leonard Nimoy did not care at all for Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who had engaged him and then dropped him from another project without explanation. And he was suing Paramount for using his likeness on merchandise without his permission. When his agent called about the movie, Nimoy told him, “If you ever call me again about Star Trek, you’re fired.”

At the time, the actor was in New York appearing onstage in Equus. Katzenberg called and said he’d like to come see the play. Flattered that Katzenberg would fly across the country for that purpose, Nimoy agreed to meet with him.

Backstage two days later, Katzenberg pressed Nimoy to have coffee with him. In three more meetings over the following days, Katzenberg listened to Nimoy’s grievances about Roddenberry and Paramount. Katzenberg suggested that Nimoy could do the film while the litigation was pending, but Nimoy replied, “I just can’t do that. I’m sorry.”

Within a couple of weeks, Paramount settled the lawsuit. Nimoy received a check from the studio at 5 p.m. and a copy of the Star Trek script an hour later. By 7 p.m., Paramount rang to set up a meeting. . . .Production started before the script was set. As the project fell weeks behind schedule, Nimoy and William Shatner devised a workable third act as Roddenberry was pushed aside. The budget climbed from $18 million to $45 million — staggering for the time. For Katzenberg, the ordeal almost derailed his career. (He briefly quit or was fired before Eisner brought him back.) The buzz on the movie was so negative that theaters tried to get out of playing it. But Paramount held them to their contracts so they would be forced to meet guarantees that the studio believed would offset inevitable losses from the movie. To everyone’s surprise, the film was a $82 million hit and with its sequels and spinoffs, became Paramount’s biggest franchise.

When Nimoy wanted to make his directorial debut on the third film in the series, Eisner was reluctant to entrust him with this now-valuable property. Nimoy was clear: Eisner needed a director, and he needed Spock — both problems that Nimoy could solve. “You and I are having a very important meeting,” he told Eisner. “This might be the last time we ever speak to each other. We’re either going to start working together on something, or we’re literally down to the final moments of our relationship!”

The result was another hit — and Nimoy went on to direct the fourth Star Trek movie and other hits, including the 1987 smash 3 Men and a Baby. By then running the Disney studio, Eisner and Katzenberg were no longer in the Star Trek business, but they had been wise to keep Nimoy in the fold.

This article has been adapted from a section of Kim Masters’ book, Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everybody Else.

A special thanks to J.P. Brooks for sending me the link to this article. We’re always looking for fresh material for our blog, so please send us an email or use our contact page.

 

Snowed In? Great Movie Pick…

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I also hope that I am occasionally involved in projects that touch other people in ways that make their lives a little better, more interesting for the moment that makes them think.
—Jim Caviezel

Life certainly has its challenges. I keep hearing about different people who are hurting or are struggling with the trials of life. So, I love when a good story—especially a true story—encourages my heart. If you’re snowed in this weekend and maybe a little depressed because it’s the end of February and there’s still snow on the ground, I suggest you pop some popcorn, start a fire in the fireplace (well, I switch mine on), grab a cozy throw, and find a comfy spot to sit as I have a movie that will not only warm your heart but will inspire you to want to make a difference in the lives of others. Last fall TriStar Pictures released When the Game Stands Tall. The movie is inspired by the extraordinary true story of the De La Salle High School football team and their record-setting 151 game winning streak. When the Game Stands Tall stands much taller than most of the run of the mill sports movies as this film has a solid cast and a good director.

game stands tall

Sports’ enthusiasts won’t be disappointed as When The Game Stands Tall is laced with many exciting grid iron moments. But what really makes this movie stand out as something extra special is it’s a true-to-life drama that tells the story of a most remarkable and successful coach who would rather see his students mature in character and personal integrity than win football games. When the press asked Coach Ladouceur (played by Jim Caviezel) what his secret is for winning, he commented, “Winning a lot of football games is doable. Teaching kids there’s more to life, that’s hard.” Laura Dern does an excellent at playing the role of Bev, Coach Ladouceur’s wife, and Michael Chiklis also does a most memorable job in playing Coach Ladouceur’s assistant coach, Terry Eidson.

Would love your thoughts on the movie. Enjoy!

Trivia: Question: Jim Caviezel played the lead role in which top grossing R-rated film of all time? What did the film gross?

Answer: The Passion of the Christ; $611.9 million