“Secretariat” and Randall Wallace: A Joyful Combination

When Nancy Dodd and I began our work at Pepperdine to build momentum for an entertainment initiative at the University, one of the first people we contacted was Randall Wallace. Randall had been on the Pepperdine campus a few times to visit his friend, the late Dr. Michael Casey, but few of us had personal or professional contact with him. I knew of Randall’s work through my friends at Act One and in other Christian entertainment ministries in Hollywood, and I of course knew of his films that he had written and directed like Braveheart and Pearl Harbor. Nancy and I contacted him to ask him to speak at a banquet to build support for an entertainment program and MFA in screenwriting at Pepperdine. The rest is history. Randall remains a valued adjunct professor of screen writing, along with Nancy, and continues to inspire students with his vision and heart.

At that same dinner, Randall told a story that explains his motivation for his work, which now includes his direction of Disney’s new film to be released this weekend, Secretariat. He told of how he and his wife had divorced and how lonely he was on the first Christmas all alone in his house. He could not decide whether to decorate the house or put up a Christmas tree, and he was having a pity party for himself and his life. He pondered it and couldn’t think of a reason he would put up a tree since it always had been for her and for the family. This year, he would be alone, and so it seemed futile. But one night it occurred to him that the tree was not for his pleasure or for hers, but for God’s. And once he understood the Audience of his work, putting up the tree … and making films … became a joyful task filled with purpose and pleasure. So he got himself up from his chair, decorated the tree, and said, “God, this one’s for you.” And so that has defined Randall’s life and the faith that inspires his films as well.

Randall says this about Secretariat and its importance in these times:

“Martin Luther King shared his dream about the descendants of slaves sitting down at the table of brotherhood with the descendants of slave-owners and he was killed for it. One after another the horrible events came: the assassinations of the Reverent Dr. King, Malcolm X, the massacre at Mai Li, and Kent State…. Our nation never imagined we could ever smile again, much less laugh, and certainly not celebrate anything. In 1973, two beautiful things happened: the grandchildren of slaves sang a song called OH HAPPY DAY and Americans felt their hearts open to a message of joy; and along came a horse called SECRETARIAT that was incorruptible with a beautiful owner that was indomitable. It’s become fashionable in Hollywood to be cynical, to hope for nothing. But every one of us knows what it means to love, to hope for love. And I am not afraid to say that joy is real.”


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