Human Interest

It’s one of the most memorable movie scenes of the last 30 years: Patrick Swayze sitting behind Demi Moore at the pottery wheel as “Unchained Melody” played in the background.

In part, you can thank Bruce Joel Rubin.

Rubin, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay for the 1990 hit “Ghost,” was one of the featured speakers at this year’s Illuminate Film Festival that ended Sunday, June 4. In addition to “Ghost,” Rubin also wrote the screenplay for “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Deep Impact” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

During an interview on June 2 he talked about the life of a screenwriter and his longtime interest in spirituality and meditation.

“When I sit down, a story finds it’s way to me and I find my way to it and then we join forces and come together,” he said.

It was the 1960s when Rubin said he began dabbling deeper into spirituality, which can be seen in several of his writings. Basically, he said it’s important to think outside the box and in the process, take chances.

“In those moments when leaps of faith occur, you need to make them,” he said. “Don’t do it blindly but my advice to anyone is find that system inside yourself that leads you. You need to pay attention to it because it’s not always very loud.”

As for the importance of festivals, such as Illuminate, he said, “It allows people to come together to digest, explore and create new possibilities. Illuminate is a very important gathering spot for people who have similar wants and needs.”

Rubin has had several of his screenplays become feature films. But in regard to the percentage of his work that’s seen on the screen, he said it varies.

“Every film is different,” he said. “I have been rewritten and I have rewritten. It’s a profoundly demanding experience being a screenwriter in Hollywood.

“You never know what’s going to happen. Every film has its own genesis. And in the end it’s surprising how satisfied you can be by seeing what’s on the screen. It’s incredibly prideful to be part of something. Films can be worldwide phenomenons that often start in the corner of your brain. How does that little corner of your brain magnify itself into something else?”

In the case of “Ghost,” he said it cost $28 million to make and over the last 27 years has made nearly a half-billion dollars. That success changed his life but also resulted in pressure to duplicate that success.

“Winning an Oscar is a great thing because you have something that will always be there,” he said. “Any time you achieve success in life that you can put down in front of people is pretty powerful.”

He said after he won the Oscar, one of the producers of the movie “Platoon” asked him if he realized that his tombstone will read, “Here is Bruce Rubin, Oscar winner.”

“The good thing is, it perpetuates your career,” he said of winning the award. “People want to talk to you. But I’ll tell you what perpetuates your career more than an Oscar — a film that makes money. When you have that success, people want you to do it again. For me, I got a career out of ‘Ghost’ that I may not have had and I’m very grateful for it. Somehow the universe has continued to provide me with stories and opportunities.”

With the success of “Ghost,” Rubin said he did things like buy a bigger house and put money aside for his children’s college tuition because he was no longer the struggling screenwriter — something that was good and bad.

“It’s hard to become the person who took chances in the same way,” he said. “I would sit down and work on a script for a year or two. I could never do that again [after winning]. I had too many bills. But I did take projects that I really wanted to do. So when people came calling, I could say yes or no. That was a great advantage of having won an Oscar.”


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