The Collaborative Process: Scott Mechlowitz said that prior to the start of filming, he met with Dan Millman in order to figure out how to approach the role. We actually had a little meeting before we started shooting. I just wanted to get a sense of who he was and a grasp of his physicalities. I really wanted to get some subtleties. He had told me that he just wanted me to make the character my own and do with it what I will, and not necessarily emulate him per se. That opened the door and allowed me some great freedom in making it my own.
Mechlowitz asked Millman what it was he absolutely had to capture in order to accurately portray him in the film. I had a slew of questions for him and that was one of him. I said, Whats the one thing that we could do in this filmmaking process that could really mess it up in your mind and would scare you? What are some things that you want to make sure we dont miss? And he was pretty happy with how the script came out so he said, if I remember correctly, he said, As long as you stay true to the script and you know the main message behind the story, youll be fine.
Millman added, Hes Scott playing Dan but its about all of our humanity. If the story was just about me, I dont know why anybody would want to see it. Its about all of us, in a way the common humanity. If Scott did the script, and the script was about the book, he would be certainly doing justice to the character that was in the book.
From Book to Screen: Millman was actively involved in the process of bringing his novel to the screen. I offered some notes early on. As the script got better I offered more notes, and the director made a big jump with it at the end. He also contributed a tremendous amount [to the script] even though he wasnt credited. I had a script that nobody saw until like two weeks before shooting. I said, Oh by the way, would you like to see the script I wrote? And the director, to his credit, seamlessly incorporated about 10 pages of the script. A number of lines are mine so its kind of fun. Ill watch the movie and Ill go, Thats my line (laughing). Its different from just having it based on the book. (Laughing) People like the lines. But thats to his credit. Nobody is smarter than all of us, so its truly a collaborative kind of venture.
Mechlowitz admits he hadnt read Way of the Peaceful Warrior before signing on to the movie. It wasnt something I had known about, explained Mechlowitz. Prior to getting the script I didnt even known about the book, but as soon as I read it I became passionate very quickly. It had an affect on me immediately after reading it.
Even though he was unaware of the book prior to reading the script, Mechlowitz says his friends instantly knew what he was referring to when he told them he would be starring in Peaceful Warrior. After Id gotten it, people would ask me what I was working on. Id just say, A gymnastics film Peaceful Warrior. Theyd say, Wait a minute. Is that based on Way of the Peaceful Warrior? I was like, Yeah, youve heard of it? Are you joking? This changed my life! This changed every single one of my friends lives. You see their eyes pop out it has that powerful of an affect on people.
On Making Such a Personal Story Public: I just wanted to teach when I was young, and I taught gymnastics because thats what I knew, said Millman. Then when my interests expanded, I learned more and I wanted to share and teach and influence people, in a way, about lifes bigger picture. It went from gymnastics to learning to learning the natural laws of learning to growth to kind of going from what develops talent for sport to what develops talent for living. That was the progression. When I wrote the book it was my first time to write a narrative like that. I thought, Well, why dont I build it around my life and my experiences? So I started out with the old guy in the gas station and went from there.
Yes it is a personal story, but it is more than that. I see myself as every man. I dont see myself as any different. The fact that my drama took place in the gymnasium with a gymnastics background, could have been any sport could have been a musician, any place in the world, because we all want to be loved and understood. We all want to understand more meanings and connections and the purpose of life. I think its a universal story and thats why I believe so many people have enjoyed the book.