Hey everyone, Barbarella here to help you escape the negativity that’s so common on the internet these days by sharing my interview with actor and philanthropist Andrew Steel. We chatted about WISH MAN, his new film, and also about his non-profit, Flicks 4 Change (www.flicks4change.org).
The Australian actor shared how he reached a point in his life where he wanted to do something to give back and to serve, so he founded Flicks 4 Change. He explained, “Being in the film world, also in the non-profit space, I had the idea to create a socially-conscious film festival that, you know, created a platform for humanitarian filmmakers to have their voices heard and to be a space for the audience to come in and be inspired to want to take action. By inviting the non-profits, the audience, and the filmmakers all together, we can figure out some ways to make some positive change moving forward.”
He shared how it was his own philanthropic efforts that led him to the lead role in WISH MAN, the upcoming film about Make A Wish Foundation’s founder, Frank Shankwitz. While attending an event, Andrew heard Frank discussing the foundation on a panel interview conducted by Greg Reid, who is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, and a producer for the film. Andrew recounted the story of meeting the man whose kindness led to an amazingly successful program bringing joy to terminally ill children and their families.
“I approached him not looking for something for myself, but I really just wanted to say thank you for what he’s done. The idea he had to start Make a Wish had a ripple effect causing half a million wishes to be granted to terminally ill children, which creates respite [not only] for the kids, but also [for] the families that have been seeing their little child go through a traumatic experience and then to have a smile on their face. I’ve had people in my life pass away from similar things, and I know how important that is.”
Andrew approached Frank at the event and shared a little about his own non-profit, and Frank said, “You know what, somebody like you should be playing me in this movie. Hey Greg, this guy should play me in the movie.” That’s how Andrew ended up in his first lead role in an American feature film. (It’s worth it to note as Andrew was telling me the story, he effortlessly switched to a midwestern drawl when imitating Frank.)
I asked how the experience compared to expectations.
“It was very humbling. As an actor, you go through hundreds of auditions, a lot of the time they’re just in your own room. You send out a self-tape, and you either hear something, or you don’t hear anything. To be given the opportunity to go to a multimillion-dollar set, where they’ve got all the bells and whistles, all the best cameras, all the best technicians, the lights, the catering, drivers, costume, and extras on set, and everyone’s working so that you can just turn up and do the lines the same way that you did in your audition hundreds of times over with different roles. It’s an incredible reward for all the hard work that all of us put in. There’s only a select few that get an opportunity like this, and I thank my lucky stars every day. I’m so excited about the journey of what this is going to bring. It’s such a beautiful story of giving back. The focus is that everybody can do something small that can change somebody else’s day, and that is, in turn, gonna cause a ripple effect that could change the world.”
Noticing that Frank Shankwitz has a cameo in the film, I asked Andrew how involved he was in other areas of the film
“Very involved. Everything from doing location scouting, because we shot it in his hometown of Prescott, Arizona. He had every location sewn up for a couple of years beforehand. He had written a book, also called “Wish Man,” so that was kind of the basis of the film, so every part of this film is a direct correlation to his life story. He was involved in every step of the way. He helped me learning shooting weapons, riding motorcycles, all the tiny details of how a police officer at the time would act and hold themselves. He was a fantastic resource to have…. He was an incredible man, a father figure in a way, and you just wanted to make him proud because this is so important to him, and he’s so important to so many people.”
If you haven’t been reading every quote on here with an Australian accent, you’re not reading it correctly. Although an Aussie, he masters the Midwestern drawl exceptionally well. How does an Australian actor learn to sound like an Arizona cop?
“I would be speaking to [Frank] constantly, trying to get his accent down. He’s got this midwestern drawl which is obviously quite different from my Australian accent. Adam Michael Rose was my phenomenal accent coach. We listened to tapes of Frank. We just listened to the different vowel sounds and the different ways he’d pronounce things, then just going over and over it again — lots of articulation exercises. What’s funny, with the drawl, you need to exercise everything so that you don’t articulate everything. There’s a lot of work that goes into throwing it away. And [you have] to make it so natural that you’re not thinking about the accent, you’re just being the character in the moment.”
Because he plays THE Make A Wish guy, I had to ask what his wish would be.
“What’s going to happen on Tuesday night is my wish. The Egyptian Theater, a whole group of people, getting to see this story, and for me to be almost like the conduit for Frank’s story. It’s funny. I don’t really see myself up on the screen, but I see this incredible man and everything he’s done. “
The film premieres on Tuesday, June 4 in Los Angeles, California and will screen nationwide in over 200 cinemas beginning on June 7 before expanding globally. Check your local listings for showtimes. See the film and check out www.Flicks4change.org, and hopefully, you’ll come away realizing that you don’t have to have a perfect life to be able to affect change and make a positive impact on the world. We need more of that, so watch the movie and get inspired.