ABOUT RANDALL WALLACE:
Randall Wallace is an American screenwriter, director, producer, and songwriter, who came to prominence by writing the screenplay for the 1995 film Braveheart. His work on the film earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and a Writers Guild of America award for Best Screenplay Adapted Directly for the Screen. His other films include The Man in the Iron Mask, Pearl Harbor, We Were Soldiers and Secretariat. Randall Wallace also wrote the lyrics to the song Mansions of the Lord, which is featured in the movie We Were Soldiers and was the closing hymn at Ronald Reagan's funeral.
Early life: Born in Jackson, Tennessee, Wallace began writing stories at the age of seven. Wallace graduated from E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia where he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. He attended Duke University, where he studied Russian, religion, and literature. He put himself through a graduate year of seminary by teaching martial arts. Wallace holds a black belt in karate.
Beginnings of Career: After managing an animal show at Nashville’s Opryland, Wallace moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in singing and songwriting. He soon began writing short stories, novels and scripts for movies. Wallace was taken under the wing of leading television producer Stephen J. Cannell and spent several years writing for television in the late '80s and early '90s.
(September 1, 2011, Tyndale House Publishers)
www.randallwallacebooks.com (coming soon)
@Randall_Wallace, #TheTouch Randall Wallace Facebook Fan Page
What people are saying about The Touch!
“Wallace, who wrote the script for the Academy Award-winning Braveheart, has created a novel about one man’s pain and his eventual redemption that is so realistic readers are sure to respond to its overwhelming emotional pull.”
—from upcoming Booklist review
“We don’t know what it is that we do that plants the seed of love and growth and faith, but I know for sure that it is carried in the power of stories.”
—From Christy Awards keynote speaker, Randall Wallace author of The Touch, writer of Braveheart, director of Disney’s Secretariat.
RANDALL WALLACE INTERVIEW BEGINS
You’ve been involved in many great films. What made you decide to write a book?
This is will be my eighth book. I wrote and published four novels before I ever sold a screenplay, and my original films have always had a companion book. I've never followed the Hollywood practice of using outside writers to novelize my screenplays; I’ve always written the novel version myself as a way to expand the story beyond what a movie can tell in two hours.
Interviewer: What inspired you to write The Touch?
RW: I was inspired in writing The Touch with the idea of having a gift. Braveheart was my first feature film and when it became a success story, I also understood that success could be one of the most dangerous challenges that I’d ever faced; that to have a gift, even if the gift is of where you happen to be in your life—not even a question of your own talent—but to have that gift of time and place means that God has entrusted you with something. And the question was how freely you could give it, whether you could keep it by trying to hold back or whether you gained it by giving. As the Bible says, you gain your life by losing it.
I wanted to explore that part of life. In my other stories—Braveheart, Pearl Harbor, We Were Soldiers, even in Secretariat—there’s a sense of struggle and tragedy. I wanted to have this story be one of affirmation, be one of joy, be a story that when we read it, it was as if we were hearing the “Ode to Joy” sung by a great choir.
Interviewer: As both a screenwriter and a novelist, you tell stories in two very different areas. What are the pros and cons for writing for each?
RW: The great thing about writing novels is that you get to take the reader inside the character’s lives. The great thing about writing movies is that you get to boil down the experience into a real clarity of what the audience can hear and what they can see the character do. And this makes for a union of all the great aspects of art. A movie is pictures; a movie is sound, music. But with a novel, you get to experience all of that inside. I wanted The Touch to be a reading experience that took the audience into a life experience in which you felt that you were going through the joy of new love, the tragedy of loss, the fear of failure, the absence of faith, the rekindling of the hope that love and life could be vibrant again in what you were doing. I wanted to give the audience all of that from the inside experience—not that you’re watching a character have those experiences, but that you are having them yourself when you’re reading The Touch.
Interviewer: Does being a screenwriter inform your fiction when writing for the page?
RW: Being a screenwriter has helped me with my novels. It’s interesting that I became known as a screenwriter before I was widely known as a novelist, but I was a novelist before I was a screenwriter. I write in a visual way, but I also make movies in an internal and an emotional way. When I’m doing a film like Braveheart, I want to find those moments that make me have goose bumps, that make me weep or make me laugh, that make me feel joy and victory. And to do that, I think we’ve got to experience all the elements of a human life. Well, that’s the way I write a story when I’m writing a novel like The Touch. I want to take the reader through the life of the character. I want them to know what that character is going through even when they’re not saying a word, what the character’s heart is doing, and let the reader have that insight into the secret life of the character so that they can feel what a young surgeon is going through when he knows that the only thing between life and death for that patient is as narrow as the blade he’s holding in his hand. And for a young woman who looks at this guy and knows that the life she’s trying to hold on to is worthless unless she has love and faith, and she finds it through him, a gift even greater than life.
Interviewer: Your screenplays are primarily historical military epics whereas The Touch is a contemporary medical drama. When approaching a project, how do you decide which story you want to tell and how you decide which is the best medium for your story?
RW: I’m often asked why I tell stories that involve war and battles, and I always say, “I don’t write war stories. I write love stories.” I want to know what you love enough that you’d give your life for it, and I want to know what is sacred to you so much that it’s even more sacred than your heartbeat. And when I’m writing that kind of story, I think it really doesn’t matter whether it’s a movie or a book. I believe someday The Touch is going to be a wonderful movie, but it’ll be a different experience to watch this story as a movie than it will be to read it. For me, I’ve always found novels to be the most intimate form of storytelling because in a novel, it’s all occurring inside me. The characters are living behind my eyes instead of just in front of them, and that kind of story has the power to change me. When I was a young man, I would come out of a movie or close a book when I had finished reading it, on rare occasion, and think, My life will never be the same because of what I’ve just experienced in that story. And that’s the kind of story I wanted The Touch to be.
Interviewer: What do you hope most readers will take away after reading The Touch?
RW: What I hope most readers will take away after reading The Touch is, first of all, an emotional experience. I want them to feel something. My father once said to me, “People will remember almost nothing of what you say and only slightly more of what you do, but all their lives, they’ll remember the way you made them feel.” Well, I want readers to feel something in The Touch. I want them to have the experience of life and love and faith lost and faith found. That’s what I hope they’ll experience, and I hope they’ll take away not only that experience, but also an idea in their lives that to give when no one else knows, to give in the way that would create—like Lloyd C. Douglas, who was the pastor of the church that we’re sitting in right now—like what Lloyd C. Douglas wrote in Magnificent Obsession, that if you give when no one else knows you gave—not even the person who receives knows that you were the giver—that that will create in you an obsession to give again, a satisfaction deeper than you’ve ever known in your life, because what you’ve really experienced is unselfish love. I want readers to come away more open to miraculous possibilities feeling touch with the source of miracles.
Interviewer: Why do you think that story is such a powerful way to share truth?
RW: Storytelling is the best form humans have ever found for conveying what really is true. Philosophy sits in the realm of ideas. Philosophy is thin and we can argue ideas, but a story strikes to our hearts. A story strikes to our identity. A story shapes who we are. And a story is not only created by the storyteller; it’s created by the audience. An audience listens to the tale and responds in a certain way, and that changes what the storyteller is telling. You know, we create the metaphors of our life and they become our guideposts of what is possible when we give a narrative of this life, this character that we believe could do this. And if they could do that, then maybe I can be like him or like her—I can love more, I can believe more, I can feel real joy. And this is in the realm of what I wanted The Touch to be. When I wrote The Touch, I wanted it to be kind of a gift from me to myself, a gift that I could give to others. I wanted to give not an idea but an experience, an experience of hope, an experience of life, an experience of love lost and love found. I wanted it to be a gift of joy.
You are probably best known for writing Braveheart. We understand that this screenplay came out of a low point in your life. Can you tell us about that?
By the mid-1980’s, I felt like my life was really starting to go well. I’d gotten married, we had two beautiful sons, and I’d won a multi-year contract with a thriving television company. Not too long after my second son was born, we bought a new home, and then six months later, the Writer’s Guild went on strike, which caused the company I worked for to void its contract with me. The strike went on forever, and when it was over the company was barely there anymore. I was out of work, my savings were gone, and no one would return my phone calls.
I kept trying, of course, I was always good at trying. But one day I was sitting at home, at my desk, staring at nothing, my stomach in a knot, my hands trembling, and I realized I was breaking down. I feared I was failing my family; my greatest fear was that I would fail my sons. I was afraid they would see me come apart, and it would be something they could never forget.
I got down on my knees; I had nowhere else to go. And I prayed a simple prayer. I said, “Lord, all I care about right now are those two boys. And maybe they don’t need to grow up in a house with a tennis court and a swimming pool. Maybe they need a little house with one bathroom, or no bathrooms at all. Maybe they need to see what a man does when he gets knocked down, the way my father showed me. But I pray, if I go down, let me go down not on my knees, but with my flag flying.”
And I got up, and I began to write the words that led me to BRAVEHEART.
How did you become a screenwriter, director, producer, and songwriter? Do you focus on a single kind of writing or project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?
My father told me I could go to college anywhere I wanted--something he and my mother had never gotten a chance to do.
I chose the most expensive place possible--and he was so proud. But when I graduated, I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to tell the kind of stories that would let a young man know who his ancestors were, and who he might be. The kind of story that might keep a child alive through a long night.
My first job was in Nashville at a theme park, managing a live show that featured barnyard animals playing musical instruments. I’m not making this up. I had a piano playing pig named Pigarace. I had a duck that played the drum named Burt Bachquack. You can imagine how proud my parents were.
I had my embarrassments and my setbacks, but I kept writing. Eventually I moved to Los Angeles, but it took a long time for me to really break through as a writer. I wrote songs, short stories, and screenplays. I published two novels and wrote a few articles for Architectural Digest. After several years of struggling as a writer, my big break came when I got an opportunity in television with leading television producer Stephen J. Cannell.
I usually write a few things at once – right now I’m writing a television pilot and an original screenplay – and I also have a few directing projects in the works.
The song you wrote for We Were Soldiers was performed at Ronald Reagan’s funeral. Can you tell us how that came about?
When we were in the final stages of completing WE WERE SOLDIERS, my editor William Hoy suggested that we close the film with a requiem hymn, and our first thought was to explore whether the army had a musical tradition for funerals. We discovered that such a hymn existed for the Navy, Eternal Fathers Strong to Save, but the army had no such tradition. So I asked my composer, Nick Glennie-Smith, to shape one of the musical themes he had created for the score into a piece that would feel both prayerful and majestic, and he came back quickly with something breathtaking. I picked up a pad of paper and scribbled down the lyrics that became Mansions of the Lord. My own father had passed away only a few weeks before, and in my heart and my head, the mansions of the Lord were close by.
I had no idea that the Reagan family had chosen to end President Reagan’s funeral with Mansions of the Lord until shortly before the service itself.
This book is very different from some of the screenplays you’ve written – Braveheart, We Were Soldiers. Are there certain themes that run through all your stories?
Above all, I think the central theme of all of my stories is that hope matters, that courage works, that love prevails. All my life, I have been intrigued by the mechanism and the moment of transformation: What happens when what we call a miracle occurs? What happens when someone does something that no one else has ever done or that they themselves have never done? What happens when someone stops doubting and starts believing?
What is like to be a Christian screenwriter in Hollywood? Are there specific challenges? Advantages?
Being a Christian screenwriter is no more or less difficult than it is to be a screenwriter in Hollywood in general. It’s difficult to be a screenwriter. Being a Christian doesn’t tip the scales one way or the other; people want a good story. I’ve always said that my inspiration for Braveheart was the New Testament, but biblical parallels aside, it stands on its own as a story. So often the term “Christian film” is synonymous with mediocrity because people ignore the fact that a story needs to entertain, not preach. TOUCH carries a message, not a dogma.
Tell us about your involvement in the movie, Secretariat. We understand that you wanted the audience to feel as though they were participants. Can you expand on that?
I did not want to merely restage the storied races of SECRETARIAT; I wanted to bring audiences onto the track, inside the races themselves. To make this happen, cinematographer Dean Semler and I teamed up with animal wrangler Rusty Hendrickson to choreograph the races accurately while simultaneously using a new method of photography to capture it all.
Horses are so romantic that it’s tempting to film them in a romantic and remote way. Our intention from the very beginning of this movie was for each person in the audience to experience the races as a participant, rather than a spectator. I wanted them to feel the thunder, the excitement, the chaos, and the violence.
How does your Christian worldview impact the stories you tell?
I’m not trying to use my stories to convince someone else to share my understanding. My understanding is limited. What I want to share is my experience that hope matters, that courage works, that love prevails.
Where did you get the idea for The Touch? What is your process for new story ideas—a flash of insight? A snippet of conversation? Inspiration from travel?
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of secret giving. My inspiration for stories comes from my personal experiences and fascinations.
In this story, Faith leaves behind a legacy of “secret giving”. Where did that concept come from? Is there a connection here with your work with Habitat for Humanity?
Certainly Jesus originated the message in his parables about giving, and his opposition to pride and public righteousness. Lloyd C. Douglass certainly inspired me with The Magnificent Obsession, his novel that became one of my mother's favorite movies. Miracles are, by definition, beyond our control; but giving in secret opens us to miraculous possibilities.
Habitat for Humanity is a perpetual motion miracle, and the people who work with it and gain homes through it have given me far more than I have given them. With Habitat for Humanity your hands get dirty and your heart gets clean..
In the story, Andrew makes microscopic sculptures. Where did you come up with this idea?
Decadea ago I came across an article about a man who made carvings so small you'd need a microscope to view them, and when I began writing TOUCH I remembered this amazing talent.
Why did you decide to set this story in the South?
I was born in Jackson, Tennessee, lived in Memphis as a child, and spent my teenage years in Lynchburg, Virginia. UVa and rural Appalachia are familiar settings and seemed the perfect location for this story.
You once said “nothing can move an audience unless it moves you first.” Is this true of The Touch? In what way did it move you?
TOUCH is sparse, plain, direct, like the people of the blue ridge mountains! I also wanted it to feel poetic, like the words of a hymn. When I read it, I feel what I feel when I sing the songs I sang in revivals, standing next to my grandmother.
**THANKS to Tyndale for providing these interview question for me to post. Below are my fun questions!
FUN QUESTIONS I JUST HAD TO ASK!
What are three things you’d rather not live without?
Three things that I’d rather not live without. My grandmother’s quilts. My grandmother made quilts for each of her grandchildren and she would run through the cycle of each of us and make one after another, and they are my most prized possessions. My grandmother’s quilts, potato chips, and chocolate ice cream.
**Nora : These are a few of my favorite things too. Especially Quilts!
What movie impacted you most as a child? Why?
I know that this will get me thrown out of the macho society of St. Andrew’s, but one of the movies that impacted me the most as a child was Mary Poppins. That story was magical to me and it was haunting. The idea of chimney sweeps who danced on rooftops, the idea of a governess who seemed very proper and precise but who dreamed and could take the children on magic rides, that marked me a lot. C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton said that fairy tales have more truth in them than our science does. I was marked by that movie.
**Nora: I LOVED Mary Poppins. It was definitely enchanting and magical for sure.
A friend of yours just invented a time machine and is going to let you use it, but you can only use it to witness two events in the history of the world. What two events would you love to experience? Why?
If a friend of mine had a time machine and I could use it twice, I could not but hope that I might want to go back to Jerusalem on Easter morning and stand outside the tomb. I know for sure that I couldn’t bear what I might see. I know that there’s a reason no one saw what happened there because it would be too much for us to live through. But that would be, for me, the great experience. It’s one that in my study in school, I focused on what would it be like, what the true Easter experience was, and that’s the cornerstone of our faith. I’d also like to go back and visit my grandfather who died before I was born. I’d love to know both of my grandfathers in fact, both of whom I never got to see in the flesh and I only got to know through stories. But I heard stories about them and those stories told me who they were and that’s the reason I believe in the power of storytelling.
Name three of your favorite books you read as a kid?
Three of my favorite books that I read as a child are Tom Sawyer—I didn’t read Huckleberry Finn until I was older, but I read Tom Sawyer when I was quite young. Treasure Island is another one. And if we go back far enough, I have to include The Little Engine That Could. I still own that book, the one that I had when I was five or six years old. And it’s fascinating to realize how that book marked me, and when I think of my individual qualities, the things that I think I do less well and the things that I’m more proud of, there’s one thing about me, and it’s that I’m always saying, inside my head, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”
If you had the opportunity to hang out with any two people in the history of the world—alive or dead; who would you pick and what would you do? (someone other than Jesus)
**Nora: You talked so much about Tom Sawyer and Mark Twain I might be interested in sitting down with him too. Except for the cigars! I'd spend the whole time coffing and wouldn't hear a thing he said. Ha! Ha!
Name three movies you could watch over and over again!
Well, I suppose when we’re asking what three movies I could watch over and over again, I have to exclude my own. I have watched them dozens and dozens of times in the process of making them, but the movies, in all honesty, that I actually watch frequently are Kelly’s Heroes and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Pulp Fiction. My mother would wash my mouth out just because I watched that movie, but I love that movie.
Thanks Randall for answering my fun questions. It was a real honor to hear you speak at the Christy Awards this year in Atlanta. It was great to hear what was on your mind and in your heart. I was Thrilled to meet you too! I'm looking forward to reading you new book.
Blessings to you
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