Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

November 12, 2012

On the set: It is difficult to know when an unusual thought will emerge

If you get a chance, go out today and thank someone on active duty in the military and thank every veteran you encounter. Every active duty Marine, soldier, sailor and airman make sacrifices for freedoms, while all veterans and the families of every veteran sacrifice a great deal as well. My dad served as a buck sergeant, and commanded a 105 Howitzer gun crew in the 301st field artillery battalion, 94th Infantry Division during World War II. The post-war shell shock he suffered taught me respect and fear. My mother’s great-grandfather sent his eldest son to war with the 8th Pennsylvania Reserve in the Union Army while he prayed for an honorable peace from the pulpit. My mom taught me how to honor sacrifice.

Obviously, today is Veterans Day 2012, plus one. There are several events throughout the region that will honor veterans, and I couldn’t let the moment pass without sharing how my father and mother taught me how to honor veterans. We are a complex people — citizens of the United States. The recent general election underscores how complex we actually are. Still, every freedom-loving American is fully capable of standing up and thanking those who sacrificed to ensure that freedom.

I apologize for switching gears here to tell a non-Veterans Day story that happened last week, and I found amusing. The story takes off from the moment I learned that Josh Lucas was the major star who had signed on for a role in the movie version of David Baldacci’s “Wish You Well.” My desk neighbor, Jamie Parsell, mentioned that the movie that was being filmed in Giles County, Va., was about to wrap, and said I ought to do something on it. I was fine with that suggestion, but when I looked at the cast listed on the Internet Movie Data Base website and saw Josh Lucas was in it, I was excited.

Lucas played the role of Martin Hansen in “A Beautiful Mind,” and was Russell Crowe’s foremost competitor in the fictional Princeton University Math Department. Bluefield native John Forbes Nash Jr., was the real life person who was portrayed by Crowe, and at least the Martin part of the Martin Hansen role likely came from Nash’s grandfather, James E. Martin M.D., Bluefield’s sixth mayor, although Akiva Goldsman was the name-smith in that movie.

I took Eddie Steele to the movie when it came out in December 2001, and he was more floored by “miniature commercials” before the movie than he was by the story itself. A few weeks later, my cousin in Florida wrote me to ask me if I was the inspiration for Ed Harris’s character, William Parcher, since my name is William R. Archer. I told her I didn’t think so, although I hadn’t noticed before and was flattered.

I emailed Dr. Nash, and he assured me that “Akiva Goldsman is responsible for everything. I assume ‘Parcher’ isn’t related to Archer of Bluefield. Indeed, Bluefield seems not to be mentioned although the word Carnegie is used,” he wrote, making reference to Carnegie Tech, where Nash earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in 1948. When the movie came out on VCR, I watched and figured that the perfect time to mention “Bluefield” would have been when Lucas delivered the line: “Gentlemen, meet John Nash, the mysterious West Virginia genius.”

As I was headed to the on-location set of “Wish You Well” with Chris McKlarney, I was crestfallen when I learned that Lucas wouldn’t be in the scene we were going to observe. Like any star-struck outsider, I was drinking in everything I could about the process as we walked to where the film was being shot. When the director called for “Quiet on the set!” several assistants went back through the small group of onlookers to remind people to be quiet. People still talked, but they did in hushed tones.

In the silence, I remembered I was a reporter, so I started interviewing one of the volunteer drivers, Winston Faust, retired facility manager of the Celanese plant. I mentioned that volunteering on a movie set appeared to be a fun thing to do, and he whispered back that when he started working, he set a goal to retire when he was 55 years old so he could enjoy life. I whispered matter-of-factly in response: “That’s my goal too, and since I turned 63 back in August, I only have eight more years to go.”

He cracked up and let out a big guffaw laugh that prompted the helpers to scurry back into the small group of visitors, shushing us and saying, “Quiet please.” I thought it was a good joke, even if I didn’t get a chance to talk with Josh Lucas. I don’t think I messed up the movie, because they kept on filming, but I made note of the joke in my notes.

Bill Archer is senior editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at barcher@bdtonline.com.

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