Mark Twain & Mary Baker Eddy - A film by Val Kilmer

Director's Notes

Conversations after church, Wednesday 10/6/10

At a Wednesday evening service in Connecticut this week, after elegant readings and testimonies on infinite supply, I had the occasion to speak to several members of the church. There was a very lively conversation about our film and Mrs. Eddy. They were supportive and curious about how the film was progressing, particularly wondering who will play Mrs. Eddy. I mentioned that it is obviously the role of a lifetime, meaning that it will probably be the most challenging and rewarding role imaginable. It is one thing to be inspired by genius, insight and prowess — to be inspired by God; it is quite another to embody it, reflect it, in the eyes.

It is an interesting challenge.

A cinema is not a church. People may have expectations that are not realistic in relation to the movie. Or in relation to Mrs. Eddy herself. The beauty of the medium of film is that it provides an intimate view into the daily lives of characters, even those who have become icons for us. It offers a unique window into their struggles and triumphs, giving us the opportunity to relate to them in a fresh way.

One church member mentioned that she was concerned that the actress playing the role may overshadow Mrs. Eddy — that one may leave the cinema talking more about the actress than Mrs. Eddy. For this reason she felt the actress should be an unknown rather than a star. This is an unlikely problem for two reasons: one, it is hard to imagine the character of Mrs. Eddy being outshined by anyone; two, I in my work as a director will devote myself to ensuring that there is a proper balance and that her character is embodied with dignity, subtlety and grace.

Another topic that came up was the idea that the actress who plays Mrs. Eddy must be very spiritual, humble and a good example. Indeed Mark Twain may have been thinking of Mrs. Eddy herself when he said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” While it is not up to me to determine how an actress spends her time off the set, I appreciate this sentiment and also expect that the woman who plays her will bring a deep sense of spirituality, commitment, warmth and compassion to the work.

As these concerns come up among those who most love Mrs. Eddy and seek to see her accurately potrayed (as I do most of all!), I am committed to pressing forward in the sometimes daunting but always inspiring quest to make this film a reality, holding to the words of a hymn we sang at the service: “We expect a bright tomorrow, All will be well…” — Christian Science Hymnal, #350.

22 Responses to “Conversations after church, Wednesday 10/6/10”

  1. Kim says:

    Dear Val,

    I have totally faith in your judgment to portray Mrs. Eddy by an actress who will do her the justice she richly deserves. Naima was kind enough to point out to me what you are up against as a Director and I understand now how hard the road ahead may be. As a friend I want to say that you will be in my prayers and I know in my heart you will meet each obstacle head on with faith and perseverance. God Bless you..xox

  2. ” is one thing to be inspired by genius, insight and prowess — to be inspired by God; it is quite another to embody it, reflect it, in the eyes.”

    Wowza, that is so beautifully put. As a director you really know exactly what you are looking for and I’m sure you will recognize her at first sight. I think that in a really important biographical film, like your role as Jim Morrison, for example, the casting is prepared by fate. There is absolutely no other actor in the world who could have done Jim Morrison and his important life story and especially his work; his music and poetry, justice the way you did. Likewise there must be some special talent out there right now who will breathe Mary Baker Eddy’s soul back to life in such a vibrant and compelling way that her writings will blaze forth with new life and healing spirit to inspire countless new generations to come.

  3. Christa Mountain says:

    Mks. Eddy was on a mission to restore primitive Christianity. At the time in her life that this film takes place, she was listening to God to get this accomplished and had an entire church and household of dedicated people to help fulfill the call from God. There has been feedback on the film that Mrs. Eddy should not be portrayed as “too serious” and also that this is a love story. The only love that Mrs. Eddy had was a Love of God and she was answering the call. Although, Twain might have perceived this as some kind of crush, I am sure Eddy was responding to him in the papers as one more way to bring the Truth to the public. I do not believe she should ever be portrayed as someone for our entertainment. She was a no nonsense, no funny business kind of gal. Twain was the popular movie star of the times. She was relentless and diligent in responding with the power of the Truth. I imagine Twain loved getting shot between the eyes every time his mortal mind challenged Eddy and she in turn would take up the cross again and again and hit him right over the head with the crown! She was the living example of “onward Christian soldier”. Any humor coming from her, I imagine would be soley for waking up the world to the Christ and exposing the nothingness and sheer absurdity of giving power to error or the devil. With her puritanical roots and Calvinistic background, she would not have been sidetracked in mere amusement with Twain. There was much work to be done (Thy will) and her Love was not “milk toast”. Twain’s quote about her shooting through him like a cannon ball reveals a match made in heaven. Here she was, a woman in the Victorian era responding to him in the press and she was his, solid as “the rock” opponent every time. It is probably why they never met. She would not have made time for “funny business”. Mrs. Eddy, today, needs to be played just as strongly. This film can be beautiful spiritually by being a strong vehicle for delivering the Truth once again through Eddy. Today, the numbers in America are waning in Christian Science and yet exploding in so many other countries. Mrs. Eddy’s vision was for the world, but this film should bring it home. “and Mother finds her home and heavenly rest”. It is the Divine Comforter, but it should comfort when we take up the cross and walk, not so we can just intellectualize it and watch it from our living rooms. All the publicity this film is receiving now is a cry for the crown of glory. With all the many servants working on this “household”, I am sure it is going to be heavenly. Prayerfully and With God’s Love, Christa Mountain

  4. Val,
    You are a great Actor, and being a great Actor I believe you know what it takes to cast someone for the roll Of Mary Baker Eddy, and I do believe you have the capicity without input to choose her no matter what the comment’s and insight given here are.
    I have complete faith that you will choose the appropriate Actress “Unknown” or “Well Known” for her roll. You have my vote of confidence, this is your baby, your heart & soul as well as your Masterpiece.
    I realize there are so many opinions here but I believe you are on the right track with this movie. You can always take the advice of the religious and preach to the choir, so to speak, but the other path which you are on, combining the reality and the dream, and then again maybe a 3rd concept seasoned with humor, love and spirituality, will attract so many more people than just a religious movie.
    It more than just a story, it’s a movie, it’s entertainment, it paint’s a picture, it touches heart’s, it bring’s humor, relationship’s albeit not the norm, the capicity to see and feel love, love for another, love for God, love for the sake of love itself.
    “now I’m just rambeling like the river”, lol
    I just want to be surprised with next pre-showing of your screen play. You do know you were brilliant.

  5. Chris says:

    I have every faith that you will be led to the right person to portray Mrs Eddy. I can see the concerns that people might be talking about the actress rather than MBE but, well directed (as it will be), that should not occur. Anyway, they are far more likely to be talking about Mark Twain and the actor portraying him :o ) lol. As a Christian (but not a Scientist) I am really looking forward to seeing the outpouring of the spirit in this film. Even in the humour and love, the spirit of God will be bound to shine. My prayers are with you and the team for the continued growth of this project so dear to your heart.

  6. Annet Ummels-Majolee says:

    Dear Val,

    It is a bit of a late reaction but I have only just read your posting. Many things which have already been said above are so true so this is just to hearten you and let you know there are people who do have faith in you and trust you to make the right decisions about who to see fit for which role and how the film is made.

    Only a director can decide who’s the best actor or actress to play a character and that is you. You’ve already shown that you’ve great judgement on who is the best actor to play Mark Twain by playing the role yourself. You’ve already proven that you are the right person for the role with your performance in March and again during the reading in October. Sometimes, like with the Doors, the best actor and the best director find each other for the best film at the right time and moment. There simply wasn’t anyone else better suited to play Jim Morisson. And the same with Mark Twain, there is no one better suited than you to play him. Just as on the right time and moment you’ll find the best actress to play Mrs Eddy. Sometimes when you’re looking real hard you’ll can’t find anyone and when you stop looking suddenly the right actress is standing right in front of you. The very thing that makes a good actress a good actress is to make you forget you’re watching an actress and make you believe (convince you) that you are watching Mrs Eddy, no matter what the actress is like in real life. I know (and many others) that you’re making this film in all honesty, with great respect for the characters, much love and dedication. For that reason alone it can only become a great film and I’m looking forward to see it. I hope, despite the comments (all well indented I hope) you’ll do another reading as I enjoyed it so much. The only thing I would like to say is: Just follow you heart.

    God bless,

  7. naima Oettinger says:

    Nice to read your post Val and nice to read the comments….
    Yes as a director I would say you have all my compassion, I know the pressure it can be…
    As an actress, I would say : any actress would swim across the atlantic to act this character, it’s an amazing opportunity and grace !
    So ! famous or unknown, I think it’s not so important, you need a charismatic and spiritual woman, for sure…
    As a Christian Scientist, I would say : God will show you the way to the right person, with little signs, kindly, my firend, for sure !
    with all my love

  8. Doris Temme says:

    Absolutely loved what you said and I enjoyed reading every word!

    Sending prayers yours way……

  9. Nancy Gieseking says:

    I am on this page through Facebook…so I look over and see you barefooted and think to myself that I’m barefooted too so I’ll just relax and say what is on my mind despite the fact I am not affiliated with your Christian Science church, nor any church for that matter. I’m not much of a joiner and feel I’m in “church” in my body (so all the time!). I have strong feelings about Samuel Clemens though and I can’t get enough of his writing (although sometimes his anger drones and I think he must’ve been hitting the sauce). I don’t envy you. It must be very hard to love Mary Baker Eddy so much with all your decisions going under the microscope in your own mind let alone everyone who has an opinion about how..I don’t really know how to best convey this except I keep seeing people eating popcorn in a theater eyes glued to the screen and your emotions seeping into them. I’ve seen you act and though you are a handsome face, the first time I really noticed was while watching Thunderheart and you shook when talking to the crowd. Since you’re calling the shots here I don’t know why anyone should worry a bit about how this film is going to be conveyed or portrayed. I liked what you said about church not being a cinema, etc. Overshadow? Are they kidding? We’re talking about actors here. I doubt that MBE could play herself in a movie. They should hope people will talk about any actor or actress in the film. Worthy? Nobody is any more worthy than anyone else to play a role, but one actor may have a deeper vein into a character than someone else and it may surprise a person who that might be–no matter what their real life is like. I have seen you in person, but have never met you and do not intend to offend you, but you don’t strike me as a person whose ego is starving. That said, I would like to comment on your apology for your reading. I guess that’s nice for you to apologize but I don’t understand why you are apologizing. It was a reading, and I thought for a reading it was good. It was a good reading. I am very curious about MBE because she was a healer. I was curious about her when I was a little girl for that same reason–the closeness to God, but being raised in a different church my mother warned me against my curiosity. I went to the MBE site a few weeks ago and watched your Twain act from several months ago. I wanted to watch the live reading but was not able to so watched it last night. I was struck by Frye. I felt badly for him. At that point, MBE seemed selfish to me BUT we all can be selfish at times–she was human–glad it was included. I surely want to learn more about them. I have loved Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy since I was a little girl(Anne Baxter and Patty Duke–WOW!!), but for some reason I feel more insight with Clemens than them. You alluded to him having a man-woman-type love feeling toward Mary. I think he felt a LOT of things toward her–love amongst them, but that type love allusion, so far, is a little fructifyin’! When listening to Baker and Frye, I thought about Olivia and Samuel–absolutely couples in different oceans there; nonetheless I detected a degree of a miniscule current of similarity. God knows I could just keep on and on here but I won’t.

    I send you resonance highest for you and look forward to the film.

    P.S. Eeeks! I reread this and think I’m deserving of a Twain-type dissertation like he did MBE on her use of language! I didn’t mean it was actually difficult for you to love MBE~~~I mean it is clear that you love and respect her and want the best.

  10. Nancy Gieseking says:

    What did I say? Ann Baxter?? LOL I meant Anne Bancroft.

  11. Joe McGilbray says:

    I am very excited about this film. Probably people who are in the motion picture business would do a better job of casting it. I have had a thought about another film Kilmerfilms might make–a remake of the Cincinnati kid, with some alterations. Thank you.

  12. David Piet says:

    Wonderful. Just Wonderful.

  13. raven wildheart says:

    Finally, your the Director, i told ya years ago you were in the wrong line of work. Your too pretty to act. well i mean too intelligent to direct…i got that wrong but very rite. Any movie has to have a good hook and baby you got it, with that face and your great revocation with speech, added with MBE legacy…wow…what a mixture of a great intellectual movie, but hollywood doesn’t want intellectual….they want sexual tension, church, and a man obsessed with getting his hands on her beautiful intelligence…what a concept for mankind. So very brilliant Mr. Kilmer, I really wonder what your true very, true intention for the writing and direction of this movie is;”Is she really out there;a female born today that exists: LiKe our Mary, Baker, Eddy, a woman torn, beaten by society,evapourated by true MAN-(twain)kind….to rise from a wounded (Knee) i mean back and pull herself up to become one of the greatest healers of our times….American times. A women no dout. Very powerful….and exquisite….a true love story in the making..”is it an imagined reflection of your life”: val…or a dream you had; of such a reunion. But A powerful man such as yourself;and a woman who persuades a nation to give a “CARE”<about humanity…lost cause or not…MBE She created a nation called christian science,and is reveared. Today, a man created a nation called IPOD, now our Childrens GOD….so sad…it does make you cry!i guess i will have to see the film. very proud of you. I believe this will be the biggest most fulling thing you ever do besides having your children. God Bless.

  14. Yolanda says:

    Hey Val,
    Excited to hear things are coming along with the movie. Agreed that who ever portrays Ms Eddy has to be spirituals in every sense of the words . This individual needs to really study her life ,her principals and what she wanted for us individuals to see.You have your job cut out and I am sure you with the help of other be able to find what we all are looking for a person who puts her heart ,passion and soul in emersing themselves into this special lady work and her life as she lived it. I will keep reading up on your progress I am sure there are days your discourage but don’t be things will fall into place God works in mysterious ways have the faith as always he shall provided and any stumble blocks you come upon to remember it shall pass . Keep up the Good Work .With Respect and Love,Yo

  15. Kim says:

    After reflecting more, I’d like to add the following. While Mr. Kilmer is being very kind in letting us follow along with the making of “Mark Twain & Mary Baker Eddy” and while he is answering the many questions that are coming up on how Mrs. Eddy should be cast by either an unknown so she doesn’t outshine Mrs. Eddy or they should be very spiritual. Have you taken in consideration the following: In the movie “Cleopatra” starring Elizabeth Taylor..did the audience only see Elizabeth Taylor or did they come away from the movie with new knowledge about the Egyptian way of life including their culture and customs? When Patty Duke played Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” did you think only about Patty Duke or did you learn about a child named Helen Keller who was blind, deaf and mute? Did you not almost cry when she spelled “Water” in the hand of the woman who was trying to reach through the darkness and communicate with her? When Cate Blanchett starred as Elizabeth did you remember Cate Blanchett or Queen Elizabeth and the trails that she faced being a woman, single and married to the crown? When Helen Mirren played Elizabeth in “The Queen” did we not get a glimpse into the private life of the Queen and her raw emotions not seen in public? Mrs. Eddy will have to be portrayed by an actress that is skilled and who can bring her to life. We will not leave the theater talking about the actress but rather about Mrs. Eddy..if an unskilled actress was to take on this challenge I fear we would leave the theater talking about how bad the actress was who portrayed Mrs. Eddy. I agree this is the role of a lifetime similar to Queen Elizabeth, Cleopatra and Helen Keller because the audience who is not familiar with Christian Science will get to meet Mrs. Eddy. They will have a new understanding and knowledge of Christian Science. Mr. Kilmer has 30+ years in the film industry and he knows this business better than most. I believe “Mark Twain & Mary Baker Eddy” will no doubt be one of the greatest movies of our time. What I feel Mr. Kilmer needs now is our support in all areas. After all, just think the world gets to meet Mark Twain and Mrs. Eddy how awesome is that!

  16. Val,
    I can’t tell how much your work has done to inspire me. I get the greatest motivation to proceed with my artistic journey by watching you suceed in what you are doing, with not only this screenplay, but with other challenges in your life & career. I love the surprise of the direction this screen play/movie will take and want to be with you throughout it and see your genius and brilliance unfold, and if I can, maybe, possibly, give back some of that inspiration to you in kind.
    Thank you so much for who you are and what you do.

  17. Lithium says:

    I’m not a Christian Scientist. I belong to no church. And yet I am truly curious about this film and anticipate its release (though I know you still have a lot of work ahead of you). Hold onto your faith! It is an invaluable thing, and a rare one at that. Times ahead are going to be tough, but your tenacity and ambition will see you through and you will shine like the true star that you are!

  18. I am ecstatic you are producing/directing/starring in this film. As a lifelong admirer of Mrs. Eddy, I relish the glimpse this movie will give the world into her unique character and strength as a woman far ahead of her time. I suggested Meryl Streep on FB to play the role of Mrs. Eddy, simply because I admire her as much as an actress as I do Mrs. Eddy as a spiritual leader. Ms. Streep possesses the unique ability to “become” her character. I always feel like I am watching that character as I watch her… not Meryl Streep. It’s the exact same quality I see so powerfully in your acting, Val. Having said that, I know that so many factors come into play when casting such an important role. And I join with the previous folks who lend opinions here in bowing to your skill and talent to select the perfect actor. Just remember, whoever is cast, they must be able to hold their own sharing a screen with you. That’s a tall order, indeed.

  19. Jennifer Knight says:

    I found this project by way of a 2005 interview that landed in Chuck Klosterman’s book, IV. I have been a method actor my entire life… as a person, not a professional. I have lived through more than I care to narrate in this setting, which has taken its toll in every possible way. In the last year, I have been guided (and sometimes propelled) to and through many spiritual experiences that have delivered me safely to this jumping-off point. I want to study, learn and share this phenominal woman’s life… not to become an actor, but to understand the woman I am so unexplicably driven to become. I offer Truth, Reflection, Wisdom, Dignity and Grace.

  20. Dear Mr. Kilmer, Creating and bringing to fruition a story of lives must be one of the most difficult endeavors of our time. That you solicit the opinions of others so freely is a tribute to your ability. You clearly have a vision that you must place on film and rounding this out with the beliefs of contributors must be challenging. I will try to discover more about this project on the web and look forward to enjoying it upon completion. Your gift on screen has frequently brought joy, thoughtfulness, and relaxation to my life, for this I am sincerely appreciative. Nan

  21. Clarissa Yarber says:

    Mr.Kilmer,It is refreshing to read the notes on your film. In this time of low moral attitude, I am encouraged to find someone I have enjoyed so much over the years is so grounded in God. I pray that God will continue to Bless and Keep you and your family. And to Bless the works of youe hands. I am so glad that what you leave as your legacy,{which your work Is}will be a testament to the man you were created to be. Keep up the good work. God Bless, Clarissa

  22. Doris Temme says:

    Hi Val…

    I was hoping you could post some tidbits regarding the dreams that will be featured in your film. Since dreaming is a part of our subconscious processing the realities of our life, I’m curious and anxious to know how Twain’s dreams help him in adjusting his frame of reference toward Mrs. Eddy.

    I think that your including dream sequences is an exceptional way to show an audience the progression of where Twain starts in his opinion of Mrs. Eddy and how dreaming assists him in clarifying his own lack and than gain of intuitive and spiritual knowledge. And, from my personal experiences and beliefs, dreams aid me to keep rekindling my spiritual connection to God, Universal Language and Laws, and to Humanity and Community!!!

    Please, could you post something about your feelings regarding the dream sequences you’ll be using and/or a little glimpse into a dream that Twain or Mrs. Eddy might have at some point in your film. I’m sure all of us would appreciate “the inside scoop!!!” …if at all possible.

    Always wishing you the Very Best!!!

    Take Care……..Doris

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