walk of fame
Image via Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com

The Walk of Fame

by Frances Brennand Roper

A closer look at what drives artists to walk the thin line between love and hate, life and death, greatness and failure.

In the wake of the tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman on February 2nd, 2014, Hollywood is keenly feeling a loss in its midst. A man who connected so deeply with his characters, who in his owns words stated: “I just want to do right by the story and try to illuminate it in a way that is surprising.”

So why did we lose an artist of this magnitude to such a pitiful end? The tale is sadly all too familiar, we see it everyday within Hollywood splashed across magazines and websites. But what, if anything, are we doing to try to stop these tragic demises?

In 2013, Russell Brand wrote a beautiful article about addiction. In it he describes a momentary downward spiral: “The part of me that received the negative data, the self, is becoming overwhelmed, I can no longer see where I end and the pain begins.”

This had me thinking for days, because when I was young I used to dream of becoming like Marilyn Monroe. A true movie star by definition and like her, I started creating versions of myself. Moulding a habitual armor that my true self could hide behind, while running from problem to problem as if it were fuel for my ‘art’. But when I was alone I couldn’t find anything in the mirror that I liked about myself.

The older I got, the more accomplished I became at shifting between masks, still however never dealing with the poison at my core. As an actor I was consumed with fear that I would never achieve my dreams, and the seemingly constant rejection gave me permission to accept my own perceived mediocrity.

Like Ms Monroe, I started to find ways of dealing with the pain. And as I look back now, I can see how inviting that escapism seemed to someone who really had no desire to be found.

But when I lived in New York, a stranger reached out to me on the street. I’d just left a meeting with another “undesirable” producer, and a man with no agenda other than to help a young woman who looked distraught, saved my life.

He taught me about Nichiren Buddhist philosophy, that we have the innate, unfathomable power to change our own lives and he shared a quote with me that has inspired me ever since: “Summoning up the courage to take action is always the same regardless of how seemingly big or small the challenge. What may look like a small act of courage is courage nonetheless. The important thing is to be willing to take a step forward.” – Nichiren Daishonin.

Hollywood or just art in general can be the poison and the medicine. It is a magical world where you are forced to stare long and hard at your own insecurities because they are also your brilliance and your paycheck. But how do we cope with the turmoil of our inner beings, that is, if we notice them at all?

My acting coach posed the question the other day: “What is your spiritual relationship with yourself?” We weren’t talking about our own version of G.O.D. necessarily, but what we do each day to put ourselves in touch with what is innately going on, to really acknowledge the demons.

All of the icons that we have lost over the past 100 years in Hollywood had things in common: the sheer magnitude of their talent; the enormous individual impact they made on the lives of others; and finally, the reckless abandonment of their own selves. So how do we continue to strive for the good of our own lives as well as those around us?

Well, we live in a city that is full of healthy remedies – so many ways to cast off the transient and reveal the true. I propose that everyday, at least once, we should determine to hold out our hands (#holdoutyourhandtoday), metaphorically or literally. Whether it is to ourselves, someone we know, or the homeless lady at the end of the street.

The bottom line is that everyone needs a helping hand or a kind word every once in a while, and it all starts with dialogue. As an industry that relies on compassion and courage, we should be the ones who start a movement for peace, both in our own hearts and around the world.

Frances Brennand Roper

About Frances Brennand Roper

Frances Brennand Roper is an actress, writer, singer and film producer. Originally from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, she now happily lives in Los Angeles and is consistently working on new features with her production company Genre House Films. Follow Frances on twitter @brennandroper

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