Another Hollywood memoir? Really? Do we need another one? Does anybody really care? What with Twitter and Facebook having created "Generation Look at Me," which so many in Hollywood have co-opted for even more self-promotion (yes, me too) and Google and Wikipedia providing every detail about every well known individual from past and present. Please...
These days, one cannot help but feel a sense of "celebrity overload." I remember, not so long ago, that being a "star" meant you had to have a body or work, some charisma and some talent, like say, Steve McQueen. But nowadays being a "star" means you made the final cut on Celebrity Apprentice -- which also means now you'll be invited to participate on Celebrity Wife Swap next season. Well done, kiddo! You've made it! Big biceps, big boobs, bigger lips and a sense of entitlement have replaced needing to have any actual skills. Flip "the bird" on national TV or be filmed getting drunk and falling down outside a club, chances are you'll have your own "show" soon thereafter.
But we're all guilty here. Mainstream print and electronic media -- who serve, what I call "celebri-slop" to the masses on hourly, daily and weekly cycles for the consumers, and we just can't wait to have our troughs filled up with the latest scandal or celebrity breakup. "Get your noses back in the swill for seconds, folks! There's plenty more where that came from!"
So, why waste anyone's time on another celebrity memoir? My time. Martin's time. And most importantly -- your time. We all have so many other things to do: causes to champion, movies to make, families to raise, bosses to answer to, kids to help with their homework, bills to pay, lawns to mow, meals to prepare! Certainly, an important publishing company like Simon & Schuster have way more interesting topics to galvanize their efforts behind rather than put another couple of "entitled Hollywood elitists" on the cover of yet another celebrity memoir. Spare me. Spare us all.
Now, if you're like me, there seems to be less and less ways to carve out a piece of your day to read. I'm not talking about the newspaper, or your email -- but rather, a good, old-fashioned paper book (ok, Kindles get a pass!).
If you're like me, there are many literary classics that sit on my office library shelves that I had all good intentions of reading when I bought them -- and still intend to get to them -- one day. I'll be 50 this week... just saying.
So, my point: why buy another Hollyweird story when you already have an overcrowded nightstand of unread best sellers and classics? What could you possibly glean from a book about two men who've been in the public eye for over fifty years, where everything there is to know about them can be uncovered by the click of keyboard?
Well, it turns out, plenty.
"I have this friend in New York. A book agent," our producer David Alexanian told me one day in the editing room of our film The Way, which I wrote and directed and stars this guy named Martin Sheen.
"I worked with this agent on Long Way Down," a documentary film David had directed which they also produced several books from. "He's going to be in Los Angeles next week and you should meet him." "Dave, I know how to write a film script, but to write a book requires a completely different skill set," I said.
"Meet him," Dave urged, "Have a conversation and go from there. I think there would be interest in a book about the film and about you and Martin. Plus, you don't know what you're saying "no" to."
I took the meeting with Scott Waxman, the agent from New York. We met for a couple of hours on our outdoor patio, drank our house made wine, and lunched on a cuisine that was picked from our backyard micro-farm not two hours earlier
"So, you're thinking about writing a book?" Waxman asked. I chewed on one of my homegrown cucumbers and pretended to be unable to give a rapid response because of my mouthful of food. What I was really doing was stalling for time. Trying to come up with something pithy and meaningful -- something that would convince him that I was a sentient being, capable of forming complete sentences, that if strung together and placed on a page, might just resemble something that looked like a book.
"Yeah." I finally mustered. Then grabbed another slice of cucumber.
"It's a father-son story," I stuttered. So stupid. Waxman knew this before he flew to LA. But he was kind and patient. "Yes, that's what attracted me to it initially," he said. "But what will make it different, unusual and interesting enough for someone to want to buy a book about this particular father-son story?" he pushed.
"Because everyone thinks they already know the story. Truth is, most people don't know the half of it." I said. "Even my own parents aren't aware of some of the crazy things that happened in my life, right under their noses."
The agent leaned forward. "So, this would be a book about the family stories that people don't know anything about?" Waxman asked. "Not a tell all," I shot back. "This is not a book that goes after or punishes anyone," I continued. "This book that is about a 50 year journey that happened to culminate with the making of our film The Way."
Waxman got even more curious. "So, it's not just the story about the filming and the experience, it's about how you got there, as men and as artists?" he asked. "Exactly," I said.
Scott returned to New York impressed enough by what he heard to begin to put feelers out and check the temperature for a book about this unique Hollywood relationship between a father and son.
"If Martin writes this with Charlie -- you got a deal!" Scott would often hear. "Emilio is so tame, uncontroversial and really not newsworthy," others would complain. "He's the quiet one." "Is Emilio still alive?"
Editors from several publishers pushed for more family, more of the controversial sibling, more dirt and really -- more of the obvious. I argued that our book needed to "push back" against the cool conventional culture of sound bite sameness -- which our lives and our artistic endeavors, for the most part, have refused to be co-opted by.
Finally, I connected with an editor at Simon & Schuster who understood where I was coming from and agreed with me on what the book should encompass. On the phone, Leslie Meredith was kind, thoughtful and above all, a wonderful listener. Not one who simply talks to hear herself speak. She asked the questions that were important to her. I also suppose she wanted to make sure I wasn't full of shit and that I was serious about taking our conversation to the next level. Most of all, I liked her and trusted her. We agreed that were we to move forward, a team would need to be put in place and a real writer be assigned to help craft and shape this two person narrative into a story that readers could follow. "Of course, of course, we need all that," I said, somewhat impatient, overwhelmed and more than a bit distracted, as I was trying to have our picture ready for it's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, where we had been an official 2010 selection. My head was in the cutting room, not on writing a book.
On Scott Waxman's suggestion, New York Times bestselling author Hope Edelman (Motherless Daughters, and The Possibility of Everything) came on board to help frame the story, shape the tone and crack the spine of the book.
On May 8th, we will share our combined efforts, our work and our stories. Hope tolerated our madness, our impossible schedules and our considerable distractions. She was tasked with listening to our stories, the good ones and the bad. The stories that we thought would be "so unforgettable, so meaningful and so important," but time and maturity have made less so. She truly had the patience of Job.
My father and I showed our scars and our triumphs, and sometimes our asses. In many ways, the entire exercise was like a long drawn out therapy session with Hope in the role of a "new age trinity" -- Counselor/Confessor/Writer.
All of the stories we've included have been recreated from our memories, to the best of our abilities. We've chosen to be honest, even when it was painful to do so, and even when it makes one or both of us appear less than flattering. We've done this in the hope that our story will help other fathers and sons reflect upon their journeys together, to think about the choices they've made and inspire them to honor and give thanks for each other, in whatever way they can.
In the course of our dual acting careers, we've been involved with more 250 movies and television shows. It would be impossible to mention them all in one book. We've chosen to highlight only the ones that have had the most impact on our father-son relationship and on our emerging careers. As a result some notable ones inevitably had to be left out.
These are the stories you thought you knew, but don't. These are the stories you can't Google, nor are they stories I'll be posting on Facebook or Tweeting anytime soon. These are stories about our journey. Our path. Our metaphorical "road" that all human beings walk in some form or another. Our road may sometimes get a little bumpy, as roads often do. But you won't find any obvious "celebri-slop" on the pages of our memoir. No sensationalism. No litany of mea-culpas. No name dropping simply for the sake of making us sound more important and cool.
We have purposely pushed back against the tide of the current pop culture where seemingly "everybody and everything is up for grabs." Because? Well, because that's not who we are. You see, on this road, nobody gets thrown under the bus while we're behind the wheel.