Risk

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belem hilton pool

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Risk, June 28th, 2020

Thirty years ago today I was in Belem, Brazil. This was a city of a million people (it is now 3 million) sitting on the equator at the mouth of the Amazon River.

It’s very hot and very humid there with lots of germs, snakes, spiders, centipedes,…oh, it is a dangerous place to be alive.

No one is old there. No one is fat there. Everyone shits three or four times a day from dysentery and are coughing up their lungs from gripado, or perhaps having their stomachs pumped from a bacterial infection.

I went to the hospital there to see friend who’d had his stomach pumped. Oh, what a primitive green porcelain machine it was of tubes and gauges standing in the corner of the St. Theresa Room. (In Belem they name their hospital rooms after saints for good reason. You need a saint to survive one.)

I was working on the film with Hollywood actors and a big time producer who’d won two Oscars already. The cast was big time and all American.

What interested me was how some actors went out into the streets of Belem and some didn’t. Some were so afraid of the germs and the chaos out there that they hid in their hotel rooms at the Belem Hilton. They ate at the same Japanese restaurant across the street every night. They were afraid.

Others, like me, went out into Belem to see and live the experience. We weren’t afraid.

So here’s the list of actors and producer/director/staff who took a chance and those who didn’t:

Hotel Folks who never left the safety of the Belem Hilton:

John Lithgow
Kathy Bates
Tom Waits
Aidan Quinn
Saul Zaentz
Paul Zaentz

And then there are those who took a chance:

Tom Berenger
Daryl Hannah
David Jones and us guys and girls in the Aerial Unit

It was a very obvious divide in our movie community in Belem. At the time I figured, “Well, some folks just want to play it safe.”

I had no idea that this “Play it safe” attitude would take over and dictate my life thirty years later. I don’t play it safe. Never have. Life is a risk.

Life is a risk. We all die soon enough.

TJM

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