PEACEFUL WARRIOR
Now A Major Film Starring Nick Nolte
By David Langer

 

 

Since release of Dan Millman’s classic book, “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” in 1980, millions of readers have marveled at the revelations Millman experienced in his spiritual training with gas-pump jockey/philosopher/teacher “Socrates.”

There’s more going on than meets the I!
These readers discovered that there are dimensions of living and of experiencing life available to us all, but unknown by most. For many, Millman’s provocative autobiographical novel was a first inkling, or opening, into this new territory of spirituality, or consciousness.

Now, after nearly two decades of navigating the feature film waters, the profound, sweepingly beautiful and inspiring story of Millman’s life-changing encounter with his mysterious mentor is a major Hollywood production.

Two-time Oscar™ nominee Nick Nolte stars as Socrates, Scott Mechlowicz (Mean Creek, Eurotrip) plays Millman, and Amy Smart, who recently co-starred in Just Friends and The Butterfly Effect, plays the role of Joy, Millman’s love interest, who eventually becomes his wife.

The Book That Changed Lives
“Peaceful Warrior,” which is set to open in selected U.S. cities on June 2nd, is rich with cinematic entertainment and nourishment for this large and growing audience. Millman first published the best-seller and award-winning “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” in 1980. In his words, the path to the film version has been a “long and wonderful one.”

“In my quest for illumination, for meaning in life, I read voluminously, many books, many that were couched in jargon,” explains Millman. “I thought there must be a simpler way to describe this philosophy, to remind people what we all know, but occasionally lose sight of as ‘truths’.

“The book went through many drafts over ten years. It is based on my life as an Olympic hopeful in men’s gymnastics and a real guy I met at a gas station in Berkeley, California. I called him Socrates on impulse.

“I wanted to let people know that wisdom is found everywhere. As the saying goes, ‘we have no friends, no enemies, only teachers.’ Who knows who or where that valuable teacher may be? It might even be some old guy in a gas station. That was the core, the base, to the universal truths I was trying to illuminate.

“The book is a semi-fictional spiritual memoir. While many things are factually true — I did go to Berkeley, I was a gymnast and world trampoline champion, I did shatter my right femur in a motorcycle accident and recovered to join my team and win the NCAA Gymnastics Championships — and I also inserted some fiction to help the story, which is paramount.”

A true labor of love for the filmmakers and cast, producer Mark Amin recalls how the process began. “I was at a retreat in 1986. The rooms were like dorms with nothing in them, and I saw “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” sitting on the coffee table. I read the first ten, twenty pages, and I was hooked. I didn’t get up again until I was finished.

“It stayed with me for a long time. My father was a spiritual person and I was familiar with some of the values in the book. I saw the chance to communicate these values in the context of a magical story without being preachy. I tracked down the rights and learned they were licensed by David Welch. When I first got in touch with him, he said no. A year passed and I got in touch again; this time he said ‘you are the right people, let’s do this’.”

“The reason I picked this to be the film I made,” said Welch, “is that we spend so much time on movies, I wanted to make sure it was about something important. Dan’s quest is to go from being externally driven to being internally driven. That was important for me.”

For his part, David Welch had already been on the project for a decade before Amin contacted him. “It started nineteen years ago when my own ‘Socrates’ gave me the book. It was as if a light went on. My mother was best friends with the publisher, so I went to Dan and got the rights. When Mark called the second time ten years ago, I decided he was the right one. We spent the next ten years getting it made.”

“We kept running into people who had read the book;” says Amin, “they all said the same thing about it affecting their lives. And when we approached Victor (Salva) about directing, it was the same story. The book had meant a great deal to him, but the first time we tried to sign him to the project, the timing was wrong and he was not available. We thought we had lost him but we didn’t give up, and sure enough a window opened up.”

“I read the book 20 years ago during a very dark time of my life” explained writer/director Salva about his connection to the story. “It was a candle in the dark for me. The book informed me how to start living my life. I also incorporated some of its themes into Powder, which is why the producers came to me. They actually came a few times, but I was doing Jeepers Creepers 2 and it took a few tries until finally the timing was right.

“The film is hard to categorize,” added Salva. “It wears the coat of a sports film, but inside is a parable of how we have been conditioned to live our lives.”

“Be happy now!”
— Nick Nolte
Leading man Nick Nolte had been affected by “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” years before he took the role of Socrates. “I had known this book since the early 1980’s,” he explains. “I had gone through the 60’s, the peace movement, civil rights, but no one had written about spiritual discovery in a novel, in a readable form.

“Nineteen years ago the part of Dan was offered to me but I didn’t feel as close to the character, or the importance of the message, as I do now. At that time, we had essentially stopped the draft and the Vietnam War. But now that the wars have picked up again, that time of community struggle has been forgotten. I see the need now for a story of spiritual awakening. It is a very timely piece.

“It has been said for a thousand years, that peace and love are on the inside. Answers are on the inside. Our culture teaches that you can’t be happy until you succeed. That’s ridiculous. There is no reason you can’t be at peace and happy now. Look within. You are just here briefly. If you don’t get into the moment, you live your life in the future, the past, or the ‘I want’.

“The difficulty is that our culture doesn’t allow for this kind of thought. Remember, you are born with everything you need. Rarely is this message put into a movie. But it is a gamble to wait your whole life to be happy in heaven. Be happy now. This is the universal theme we undertake in this film.”

“I hadn’t heard of Scott (Mechlowicz) until Victor suggested him,” admits Amin, “but his film Mean Creek really impressed me.” Director Salva reflects, “This is my seventh feature, and Scott is the best actor with whom I have ever worked.”

Speaking with Mechlowicz, “When I read the script,” he recalls, “it was very therapeutic. I really liked the idea of my character. He is so tragically ironic:  physically strong, but vulnerable and weak inside. There is an immense struggle going on; he is constantly torn.

“Then Socrates barrages him with tasks meant to open his eyes. Part way through the film, you see Dan move to the dark side, and there is a moment when he has to decide what he is going to do. He is asking the same questions we all have, searching for who we are. And I was excited to work with Nick Nolte.”

Mechlowicz claims to have been altered by his involvement with the film. “It helped me get a lot of unconscious clutter out of my head, and begin to see life more clearly, not bogged down in my mind.” The gymnasts he worked with in the film said to him, “I wish I had this while I was competing!” Reflects Mechlowicz, “When you make a conscious decision to keep yourself clear, eventually it becomes habitual.”

Amy Smart, who plays Dan’s love-interest, Joy, recalls, “I was filming Just Friends,” last summer’s successful romantic comedy in which she co-starred. “One of the producers was about to start on “Peaceful Warrior.” It was one of my favorite books, and I had literally just been thinking, will they ever make a movie?

When I heard that Scott was playing Dan, I was excited to be working with him. I had met him at Sundance and seen him in Mean Creek. I saw firsthand how much depth he brings to a character. Scott has a natural goodness to him, yet allows himself to feel the pain of his character. It is a vital trait.”

Millman sees his book as a vehicle that helps people reconnect. There are those who would say that humanity is in a process of The Great Reconnection. If that is the case, “Peaceful Warrior” is now poised to contribute to this massive awakening right alongside the classic book that inspired it.

Peaceful Warrior will open June 2 in select theatres. For free preview screening tickets and information, visit:  www.thepeacefulwarriormovie.com
 


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