Friday, December 7, 2007

Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day, Interview with Mitch Albom

What would it be like to have one more day with someone you loved that has died? This is the premise of the new movie, based on the book written by Mitch Albom, One more Day. One More Day will air this Sunday night on ABC television. The movie, presented by Oprah Winfrey causes us to look at, and reflect on, family, parenting, blame, difficulty, alcoholism, divorce, and so much more. It is, unfortunately, a reflection on real life. I have to admit, as a child growing up in dysfunction, never knowing a father, seeing the affects of alcoholism and more, I related and reflected on my own life while watching One More Day, more than I would have liked but in a way that was ultimately positive for me. Mitch Albom knows about the characters he writes about, because he bases many of those characters on his own experiences and observations. It is one of the things that have allowed him to be so widely accepted among not only viewers, but readers, and those others he comes into contact with. While he writes about reality, he hasn’t forgotten his own obligations to help those less fortunate.

One More Day stars Michael Imperiolli from the Sopranos as Chick Benetto and Ellen Burstyn as his mother Posey Benetto. This exceptional cast presents a rarity, a story that requires focus, and reflection. Absent of all the trends that currently seem to permeate movies, such as car chases, explosions, murder and the like, what we have here is reflective drama. Drama that has to be understood and appreciated to be enjoyed, and thankfully Albom writes about reality, a reality we can all understand. I recently had the opportunity to discuss among other things, the movie One More Day with author and screenwriter Mitch Albom. After learning more abut him, more about some of the underlying themes of the movie, I will admit, I will watch the movie again.

Enjoy now as I present the discussion with Mitch. Be on the lookout for the audio version of the interview which I will include on a future HJ Live Radio program. Until then, here is the interview with a man I greatly respect, Mitch Albom.

Mike Furches (MF): Hey Mitch How are you doing?

 Mitch Albom (MA): I’m doing good, and you?

MF: I’m not doing bad at all. I really appreciate you working with me on this and getting it done as I am doing some training with Boys Town right now. I really appreciate you again, doing this with the tough schedule I have had.

 MA: Sure no problem at all.

 MF: You ready to get started then?

 MA: Yea man.

MF: I know we have about 10 minutes so I want to respect your time on that. You have a new movie coming out, For One More Day, a story that you wrote, so if you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about the story.

 MA: Well the story is about a boy who grows up in the 50’s and 60’s kind of worshiping his dad who tells him he has to be a “daddy’s boy” or a “mommy’s boy” but he can’t be both so he picks to be a “daddy’s boy and then he sees his father disappear when he is 11 years old and he never comes back. His mother is sort of left to raise him and he never really appreciates her because he’s always chasing after his father. Even when he is an adult he becomes a baseball player for a period of time to try and get his father back into his life. After that, when he is in his 40’s he goes chasing after his father one last time and the weekend after he does that his mother dies and he’s not there. He begins to regret all of the time he didn’t spend with her and his life starts to go downhill, he becomes an alcoholic, he looses his job, and his family. He actually decides he wants to kill himself because he doesn’t want to live anymore. He goes back in the middle of the night to the little town he grew up in. He goes to his abandoned old house and he pushes in through the door planning to kill himself and he hears his mother’s voice calling him from upstairs as if she was still alive and had never died. She comes downstairs and she is right in front of him as if she had never died. All of a sudden he begins this one last day that he gets back with her where he doesn’t know if she is dead or alive or if he’s dead or alive or whatever. She spends the day with him and kind of walks him through his life and shows him all of these things he didn’t understand about it, and him, his father, and all the rest. He finds out that a lot of things he should of done while she was alive he gets the chance to do on this one last day with her.

MF: I saw the screener for the movie and was kind of impressed with the presentation and the story. How much does it differ from the book that you wrote? How pleased are you with the final product?

MA: Well I wrote the screenplay so I had pretty decent control over making sure it didn’t veer into left field. But, you know, a screenplay is just sort of a blueprint and then you kind of turn it over, and the director and the actors kind of take it. I think the essence of the story is very much there and the relationship between the mother and the son is there. Obviously, it is only a 2 hour TV movie and if you allow for commercials I think it is a total of about 90 minutes or so movie, so you can’t have everything. You can’t have every scene; you can’t have every age, and all of the rest of it. As a good movie representation of what the book is about, I think it does a very good job.

MF: One of the things I appreciated is as mentioned earlier I have been involved in training with Boys Town this week, and I come from a situation where I never knew a father. The movie touches on, and I was impressed from a reality perspective in the way the movie addresses issues like alcoholism, family relationships, not knowing your father, being without a father.

MA: Right

MF: Where did you draw your storylines from?

MA: Unfortunately, I have a lot of divorce in my family. I see the effects on the kids and I see how hungry the kids are for just any kind of attention, or how much they just want to get the family back. How often the one that stays behind and is the one who does the raising is the one that’s resented and the one who leaves is the one who is longed after and pined after. That’s kind of sad, but it’s the truth. Sometimes the person, in this case in the movie, the father ended up, we find out in the end this dirty secret that he had kept all these years, but he was kind of the bad guy, and yet the little boy is always taking it out on the mother. Unfortunately, that’s from real life, I see that all around me.

MF: I was really impressed from looking at the bio that was provided to me. You have tried to take that component of working with families, and working with people with disadvantages on and into your own life. Would you share some about some of the charity work you have done because I was really impressed with that?

MA: Yea, Thank you! You know, I live in Detroit and for better or worst, there’s lot’s of charity opportunities here in Detroit. We need a lot of help, and I started a volunteer group that is called Time to Help about 10 years ago to try to get people, particularly people who live out in the suburbs and were doing pretty well for themselves to come into the city once a month and interact with people and help out doing everything from building houses, or rebuilding houses, to refurbishing places, or packing up food for homebound people, or going to homeless shelters and doing parties or painting, fixing up broken down schools, or things like that. In 10 years we’ve done well over 300 projects and it’s really been great to sort of show people that the dividing line between the suburbs and the city is not as great as people think. I started another one a couple of years ago called Save Detroit which is to help the homeless. It came out of the Super Bowl where during the Super Bowl they kind of took the homeless people and took them off the street and put them into this one shelter to try and give them a party, quote unquote, but really it was just to get them off the streets so that no one has to see them. They thought that was really cool because come Monday morning they kicked them back out and into the streets. I started this group which just grew, and grew, and grew and has become this big charity now. It is very well funded and it builds facilities for homeless people, kitchens, a veterans shelter and a day care center and a women’s shelter and things like that you know, really tangible, brick and mortar stuff to help the people who need it the most in our city.

MF: One of the things people may not know about, and again, saw this from the bio, you were named Man of the Year for the National Hospice Organization in 1999. What is your association in regards to your work with Hospice?

 MA: Well because of book Tuesday’s with Morrie which was the story of a dying professor from ALS, that’s a true story that happened to me in my life and I wrote a book about it. Morrie was helped by Hospice quite a bit so when I started going around the country, people wanted to talk to me about Morrie and all of the rest so I kept pointing out how valuable Hospice had been to him. One thing led to another, and they asked if I would join some of their local boards and then joined their national board and do some speaking on their behalf and so I have become a big advocate of those Hospice organizations, local and national. I just think they do so much good and they were kind enough that year to give me that honor.

MF: How do you respond when you get recognized by a group like that? Especially when you do a movie or story that relates to that particular issue? Especially when that group sees that, and respects and appreciates your work?

MA: I think mainly, you should just feel like maybe you are on the right track and just keep doing it. I don’t think you are supposed to pat yourself on the back or go, “Wow isn’t this great I need to tell everybody!” I think it’s sort of just something that just maybe gives you a small sense of comfort, for want of a better word that the path you are walking on is probably a good one. I mean you don’t know that, we spend so much of our time wondering if we are going in the right direction or anything, so when something like that happens, I think it is just a moment where you say, “Well maybe I am,” and then I need to continue it. It wasn’t like, “Well I’m done with them because they gave me awards.” I think you want to work even harder for causes like that and I have tried to do that since then.

MF: For the movie coming out this weekend, Oprah has helped produce that, I think she did that with your other movie Tuesday with Morrie as well,

MA: Right

MF: One of the things I want to touch on, as a final question, if I may. For One More Day is obviously a story that is not “action packed” or anything like that, it is a story and a personal story. To me, even a reflective story to think about, one each person who is watching it can think about their own lives and people they have come into contact with, especially, people who have gone without fathers, or had issues with family relations and that type of thing. What would you want the viewers to get out of the story or movie as they watch it this coming weekend?

MA: Well, you’re right, I think people will watch it and sort of insert themselves where, I could be that son, or I could be that mother, or my father left when I was young or I wish I could have a parent back. I guess what I hope people will get out of it is that if it moves them when it is over, they will pick up the phone and call a loved one who maybe they were planning on waiting to call, or go see, or spend time with and just schedule the meeting now. Just schedule the visit now. Go sooner rather than later, because as it happens to him in the movie you never know when you are going to loose somebody. He was lucky in the movie, he got a day back, but that’s just a movie. That’s not how real life works and you should grab those days with the people when you have them, right now.

MF: Mitch, appreciate it. Again, as a kid who grew up without a dad, and who works with kids and who don’t have dads and has had family issues, I appreciate your work.

MA: Well thank you very much. Thanks for taking the time to watch the movie. That was very nice of you.

MF: Well I will watch it again.

MA: I hope you liked it.

MF: I enjoyed it and will watch it again this weekend with the commercials.

MA: (Laughing) okay

MF: We want to support those sponsors.

MA: Thanks very much, have a great day.

MF: Thanks to you, God bless you.

MA: Bye

MF: Bye

To see the trailer for the television show, click on the video below, if the video don't appear, just click on the link:
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