Institute for Southern Storytelling Event Features One of Hollywood’s Most Successful Screenwriters
“Dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance – just one chance – to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives – but they will never take our freedom!”
The line delivered by actor Mel Gibson as he portrayed Scottish warrior William Wallace in the denouement of the 1995 historical epic “Braveheart” is one of the most stirring quotes in cinematic history. The fact the real Wallace likely never uttered the phrase remains largely irrelevant to how impactful the scene has become in the annals of American film.
The man who put those inspirational words in Gibson’s mouth – Wallace’s namesake, Randall Wallace – is considered by many in the theatrical industry to be one of the greatest screenwriters, film directors, and producers of our time.
“Braveheart” was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture and Best Director. It also won a Golden Globe Award and four BAFTA Awards. Wallace went on to write the screenplay for the blockbuster hit “Pearl Harbor” and to direct such heavyweight titles as “The Man in the Iron Mask,” “We Were Soldiers,” “Secretariat,” and “Heaven Is for Real.”
A “New York Times” bestselling author of seven novels, Wallace will share the faith-filled story of his journey from small-town Tennessee to the star-studded hills of Hollywood during “Creativity and a Brave Heart: An Evening with Randall Wallace” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14, in the Entergy Theater at the Gore Arts Complex in Clinton.
Wallace’s appearance is courtesy of the Institute for Southern Storytelling at Mississippi College. It is rooted in the Institute’s initial community event, “Vasti Jackson and Friends: Live in Mississippi,” an Aug. 31 concert headlined by a renowned Mississippi blues musician filmed to air as a television special. Wallace’s appearance will be filmed for future broadcasts as well.
Anthony Thaxton, Institute co-founder, credits another well-known writer and a mutual friend for helping arrange Wallace’s visit to Mississippi College.
“Jill Conner Browne, best-selling author of the ‘Sweet Potato Queens’ series with whom we’ve done projects, TV shows and films, came to the Vasti Jackson concert,” Thaxton explained. “She is best friends with Randall – they met on a publisher’s tour once, and Randall, being from small-town Tennessee, and Jill, a Mississippi girl, just hit it off. Jill said the beautiful Entergy Theater would be the perfect venue for Randall to come and speak.
“Randall had seen and loved the Walter Anderson documentary we did and graciously offered to come to Mississippi College. He’s going to spend several days with us. He’s going to speak at the Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson the previous Sunday, and some of the Anderson UMC choir members and their band will perform with him at MC.”
In addition to his writing and directing talents, Wallace is a talented lyricist. A hymn he wrote for “We Were Soldiers,” “Mansions of the Lord,” was performed as the recessional for President Ronald Reagan’s funeral.
Wallace has rare standing as a respected person of faith in the Hollywood community. He formed Wheelhouse Entertainment, a company focused on “creating entertainment for worldwide audiences based on the classic values of love, courage, and honor.” He has served as a speaker at the Fellowship Foundation National Prayer Breakfast and was the commencement speaker at Liberty University’s 2011 commencement. He and Gibson have completed their final draft of the sequel to “Passion of the Christ,” the most successful independent film of all time; “Passion of the Christ: Resurrection” is slated for production next year.
“He’s warm and witty – just a genuine person,” Thaxton said. “Being a believer in Hollywood is a big part of his story. His faith is a strong part of who he is.
“When someone asked him why he writes all these stories about conflict and war, he said, ‘I don’t write war stories. I write love stories. What are you willing to die for?’”
Randall will share his creative process with the audience, especially in writing “Braveheart,” but the event will include a mix of storytelling, film clips, and original music. Aspiring screenwriters and directors will be thrilled to hear advice from the master.
“He has a heart for sharing with young people,” Thaxton said. “He had several people pour into him when he was younger and let him know that it was possible for a Southern guy to make it in the entertainment industry.”
That desire directly aligns with the Institute for Southern Storytelling’s mission.
“Recently, we shot a promo for the Institute with Ben and Erin Napier (of HGTV’s “Hometown”),” he said. “They talked about the importance of young people in Mississippi seeing examples of others who have been successful in a creative job they want to do. How did they get to do that?
“When we see examples of Southerners who started in a small place in life and became a force in their industry, it proves the opportunity and potential is there. Students can see that people like themselves can achieve their dreams and go out and make something happen and have a wonderful life.”
Amy Bryant Thaxton, executive director of the Institute, said leadership has taken an intentional approach to offer a variety of storytelling to the greater Clinton community.
“We want to make sure that we are touching all genres of storytelling,” she said. “With the Vasti Jackson concert, we had storytelling through music. With Randall being an author of books, novels, screenplays, and songs, he represents the writing component. He’s also a visual storyteller through movies.
“We have people in our community and at Mississippi College who need to hear from people who have been successful in different storytelling areas. We’re making sure to promote the entire scope of storytelling, and this event is going to be truly special.”
“Creativity and a Brave Heart: An Evening with Randall Wallace” is another in what Institute leadership intends to be a star-studded community performance featuring the South’s finest storytellers.
“We invite people to learn more about the Institute and partner with us to help offer quality concerts and programs for the community,” Anthony Thaxton said.
Doors will open at 6 p.m., and admission is free, although seating is limited. For more information about the event or to learn more about the Institute for Southern Storytelling, visit southernstorytelling.mc.edu.