Excerpt: 'There and Back Again'

Anyway, instead of being rude, David decided to offer me guidance and inspiration. I began telling him about an original idea I had for a short film based on nothing more than a single image I had carried with me since I was fourteen years old. It had popped into my head one day while driving with Mark Marshall, Steven Spielberg's assistant, during the filming of The Goonies. Mark was taking me home, and we were on Ventura Boulevard, with the sun setting, listening to Kansas sing "Dust in the Wind" on the radio, when suddenly I had a vision of two soldiers one Vietnamese, one American hanging upside down next to each other, with a burning red sun between them. Why? I don't know. My best guess is that it had something to do with my having recently seen Francis Ford Coppola's classic Apocalypse Now for the first time. That, combined with the fact that every day when I went to work on The Goonies, I was escorted to the set by my guardian, Joseph "Peppy" Passarelli. A big Italian man with a bushy mustache, Peppy had been a corpsman in Vietnam, and during our many hours in the car he often shared tales of his time in Southeast Asia. Anyway, between Peppy and Apocalypse Now, and Kansas and the setting sun, I couldn't get this image out of my head.

So here I was years later, walking with David Watkins, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and sharing with him my idea for a small personal film, not at all sure how he would respond to it, but wanting his feedback nonetheless. The truth is, I was a bit lost. I knew I had missed a window of opportunity for college. I'd applied to Cal State Northridge right out of high school, mainly because it was one of the few schools that did not require the SAT for admission. This was important to me because I hated the notion of having my intelligence quantified by a single exam. (In the interest of fun disclosure, I should reveal that I did once register for the SAT, and even started to drive to the testing site, only to miss the exam after locking my keys in the car at a gas station while battling a bout of performance anxiety.) I was accepted at Cal State Northridge, but I knew, based on the filming schedule of Memphis Belle, that I would almost certainly be in England when the fall semester began. If I'd returned immediately upon the conclusion of principal photography, I might have missed no more than a week or two of classes, and I suppose I could have made up the work, but I opted instead to travel. Some of the other guys had cool trips planned, and I wanted to be like them. I took a cruise through Greece, and I paid top dollar because I didn't know you could do it more cost effectively than that. To be honest, I didn't really care. I had some money in my pocket and a small degree of notoriety, and so I had a good time. It was a wonderful experience, but I embraced it knowing full well that it would delay my entrance to Cal State Northridge.

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