Posts Tagged ‘Mt. Soledad cross controversy’

(This is part of a series based on my interview with Heaven Is For Real Screenwriter and Director Randall Wallace of Braveheart, Secretariat, Pearl Harbor and We Were Soldiers fame.)


For me, there was an intensive three-year manhood program that was a stepping stone to my masculinity. Next was the long road to becoming a C.E.O. followed by an even scarier highway to Hollywood and Nashville. And now, as I age, the movie Heaven Is For Real has me thinking about the next step on my way to becoming a man after God’s own heart.

It was during those three years in the National Institute of Kingdom Manhood that I first figuratively met Heaven Is For Real screenwriter and director Randall Wallace. Or did I meet William Wallace of Braveheart notoriety? Perhaps it was a bit of both. Maybe it was some of me. Yes, on all accounts. That’s what Braveheart did for me. It pulled something out of me that I either feared or I had buried or was ignorant about or all of the above.

“Writers and artists have described [extracting a story] for over a 1,000 years,” Wallace said, “the Greeks have their concept of The Muse and the different Renaissance artists would say that the angels came and whispered to them. A story finds you, a story calls you out into something greater and deeper and you make the journey and you say to yourself, ‘This was in me all along and I didn’t know it.’ It’s that interplay of the divine voice that finds us and speaks to us and the way we answer that voice. You have to have both sides to have that conversation.”

The story of Braveheart, for example, came from a trip to Scotland in which Wallace was searching for his roots. He found his story in the legend/history of a namesake and Scottish hero and came back with a blockbuster in his heart.

“I didn’t write Braveheart for money,” he said. “I wrote it to express the kind of movie I wanted to see. Did I want a lot of people to respond to it? Sure, I had that hope but the biggest thing was, ‘Did it tell my story my way?’ ‘Did it tell the story I was made to tell?'”

And, because I had shared with Wallace what a profound effect it had on me, he said: “Braveheart helped heal and find a way through the battleground of your own heart. That’s what it is for me and that’s something I want to share.”

And then, he slipped and said, “William Wallace said…or what I wrote for him in Braveheart…” Yes, it’s that real for him. As a screenwriter and author, I know what it’s like to have your character live for you or for you to live through him. These stories and characters that come to us writers change us indeed. When we are moved, it’s only natural to want to share them with others, as if to say, “You gotta meet my friend. He’s amazing.”

I found that “story” that Wallace says comes to all of us. In his case, it was in Scotland. In my case, it was in San Diego as I was passing by a giant veteran’s park cross that was ordered down by a federal court. Both are David and Goliath tales which tend to be THE story of all of our lives. And this is the book and movie that came to me in the form of Gamaliel’s Advice, based on the true events surrounding the Mt. Soledad cross.

While Braveheart and William Wallace may be household names, “Kelli Peters” and “Robert Peters” are not. Kelli is the young heroine in my movie. Robert is her World War II grandfather. While I live through Robert’s sentiment, I cannot lay claim to having “veteran” status, especially of his kind. He is a composite character who fought at Iwo Jima. Robert Peters is also a combination of my first name and my Confirmation name of “Peter” – the disciple who had to go through quite a character arc himself in order to be the man who would help change the world.

Kelli is loosely based on the rock-solid character of my Marine-pilot niece and carries a perseverance throughout the screenplay that I could only hope to possess. Her nickname is “Never-Give-Up Kelli” and she never does in the movie and doesn’t in real life.

Kelli’s alter ego lived in my mind long before she became a Marine for she was just a girl when I began sketching out the plot. For 17 years, I had thought about characters that would do justice to the true story of the Mt. Soledad Veteran’s cross, the subject of the longest-running lawsuit of its kind in the history of the United States. Kelli and her composite grandfather came out of me or at least who I wanted to be. That’s the characters. And they must live to die.

That’s where the quote that Randall began to recite for his namesake comes in: “Every man dies, but not every man really lives,” says William Wallace in Braveheart. So if I must figuratively die so that this project lives, I will do so. I draw strength from the fictional “Never-Give-Up Kelli” and the real one, as well.

With my story, I literally received a cross to bear and almost two decades later, I could use a Simon of Cyrene to help me carry this burden of making my book into a movie. I am on the way. Yet, crosses usually include a long road.

If you would like to help shoulder the story of the Mt. Soledad veteran’s cross because like myself, the story has come to you, please contact us at norepcom@gmail.com or call 518-435-1250 and ask for Robert Peters…uh, I mean Robert LaCosta. Now I know how Randall feels about William Wallace, the character that helped bring me my brave heart – the very one that was needed to bring Robert and Kelli Peters to the big screen so that it can enlarge the heart of a nation.



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