Monday, April 18, 2011

Edward James Olmos

Alan Arkin was slated to appear at the Florida Film Festival along with a screening of "The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming!" This is one of Terry's favorite films so she bought a ticket early. He was in a minor car accident which caused some damage to his inner ear so he was unable to fly.

Edward James Olmos stepped in along with a screening of "Stand and Deliver." I arrived early and a staff member was just changing the marquee sign. The long pole had a suction cup at the end along with a string which, when pulled must have created the suction. Letters stacked on the ground were lifted up one at a time and slipped into the slots, a very analog setup.

I knew the event was sold out so I was nervous that I wouldn't get in the theater. Just as I finished my sketch, the long line of people started filing into the theater. I went into the lobby with the other press and volunteers who were on stand by. As I waited, Edward entered the lobby. He warmly shook my hand and said how happy he was to be seeing the film again on the large screen.

"Stand and Deliver" was an independent film that was an instant and lasting success. It inspired and offered the hope that teachers can truly make a difference in their students lives. It offered the reassuring promise that if you believe in and trust those you teach, they become trustworthy.

After the film he sat down with Henry Maldonado for an informal interview. When Edward got on the stage, he asked the audience, "Are there any teachers out there?" I raised my hand as did a number of people in the room. He said, "You all should be making a million dollars a year." People cheered. He went on to point out that the private education system isn't working in our country. He felt a strong country should have a strong education system.

When discussing his time on "Miami Vice" he was completely honest, saying he didn't like Don Johnson and he didn't once look at the actor when filming the series. Olmos didn't like to sign contracts that were exclusive, not allowing him to pursue independent films. He hated every minute he spent on that tv series and yet that contentious attitude resulted in his becoming a character the TV viewing audience loved to hate.

Speaking about "Stand and Deliver", Olmos said he spent many hours with the teacher, Jaime Escalante, and he was struck by what an amazing man he was. He expanded the math program he started so he could take on more students. Escalante was visited by presidents and diplomats. His success over time was resented by the other teachers who felt they did not get the recognition they deserved. Because of these jelovsies he eventually had to leave the school and the students he loved. When he was on his death bed he told his wife that he wanted the names of his students placed with him in the casket.

In "Blade Runner" Olmos was the one who was making origami figures while on set, and that idea was incorporated into the film. When he was hired as Admiral Adama for "Battle Star Galactica, he at first didn't want to take the role. He had never seen the original TV series and he didn't want to be part of some cheesy science fiction show. After reading the script however he knew this was a project he had to be a part of. Written after 9/11 the scripts were dark and penetrating. At the time the show was written, blogs became prevalent for the first time. After a show aired, there would be a dynamic ongoing online discussion. The writers listened and commented themselves. Thus blogs helped generate new ideas.

His relationship with President Laura Rosling was a bitter contentious power struggle yet transformed into love. The shows theme of redemption and forgiveness resulted in his being invited to speak in the United Nations. The most important message he offered, expressed there and at the Enzian, was that there is no Latino race, there is no Caucasian race, there is no such thing as race as a cultural determinant. There is only one race and that is the human race. When Olmos got up to leave the Enzian stage he turned to the audience and shouted, "So say we all!" He shouted again and again till the whole audience joined in.

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