It’s easy to see Hollywood as a detestable machine. Between the unnecessary remakes, sequels, prequels, talking heads, and the advertising onslaught, it’s enough to make a true cinephile scream. There are great things about Hollywood, though. Sometimes we’re treated to a tale that thrills us to the edge of our seat or touches us profoundly — and sometimes those stories happen off screen. The Internet is abuzz with a report about a terminally ill Trekkie. Director J.J. Abrams — who is normally extremely secretive about his projects — granted the man’s dying wish: to see the upcoming film, Star Trek Into Darkness. Abrams screened the unfinished movie for a fan named Daniel who has been diagnosed with cancer and only has weeks to live. According to Dan’s family, they “enjoyed it immensely as a film and as a gesture.” We rounded up other heartwarming stories that restored our faith in Hollywood. Grab a tissue or two, and meet us after the jump.
Pixar movies look like they’re for children, but their stories are universal tales that tug at the heartstrings. Several years ago, the animation company granted a 10-year-old girl’s dying wish. Colby Curtin suffered from a rare form of vascular cancer and was too ill to get to a movie theater to see the film she desperately wanted to — 2009’s Up. Curtin’s family got in touch with Pixar, and the company flew an employee to her house with a DVD of the film (then, only in theaters). Colby passed away hours after seeing the emotional movie about an elderly man who fulfills a promise to his deceased wife and follows his dreams. “When I watched it, I had really no idea about the content of the theme of the movie,” said Curtin’s mother, Lisa. “I just know that word ‘Up’ and all of the balloons and I swear to you, for me it meant that (Colby) was going to go up. Up to heaven.”
Taking cheap shots at George Lucas for his questionable handling of the Star Wars universe is amusing for a hot minute. When his companies LucasFilm, LucasArts, and Industrial Light and Magic were sold to Disney for a hefty $4 billion, and Lucas revealed he planned on donating the proceeds to charity, fans couldn’t deny him respect. “I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future — and the first step begins with social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children. As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt — as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so,” Lucas said in 2010.
Eight-year-old Catie Hoch suffered from a cancerous kidney tumor, which developed into neuroblastoma within a year. The young girl underwent multiple surgeries removing one of her kidneys, her adrenal gland, and parts of her liver and lungs. After intense chemotherapy, radiation, and drug trials, it was clear there was nothing more that could be done for Catie. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books were her only escape from the pain, and her family reached out to the author with hopes that Catie could read Rowling’s then unfinished fourth novel, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. Rowling began corresponding with the family, and when Catie only had days to live, the author read her chapters from the unfinished manuscript over the telephone. Catie died shortly after they made contact, and Rowling donated $100,000 to a cancer fund in her memory. “I look back at Catie’s e-mails and happiness shines out of each and every one. Please don’t thank me for anything I did, because I feel truly honoured to have known your daughter, however briefly,” Rowling wrote the family.
The number of controversies surrounding Danny Boyle’s 2008 drama, Slumdog Millionaire — about a man from the slums of Mumbai who appears on a game show, wins, and is accused of cheating — seem never-ending. Amid an early press frenzy, in which some people accused the filmmaker and his crew of exploiting the film’s child stars, Boyle set up a generous trust fund for the two children and donated $747,500 to a charity supporting the betterment of homeless children in Mumbai.
Even if you abhor the Twilight series, there’s no denying that some good has come out of its immense fandom. It allowed star Robert Pattinson to grant a terminally ill superfan her dying wish: simply to meet and talk to him. The actor surprised her during a handprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. “Oh my God, he’s so sweet, and he gave me this great autograph,” Rachel told reporters. “He’s just so handsome and he was right next to me. I can’t believe it, it was so wonderful!” You can watch the video here. Pattinson has also been known to buy guitars for homeless guys strumming broken-down instruments.
Fifteen-year-old Rina Goldberg passed away in 2010 after suffering from Mitochondrial Disease. During her illness, she had big dreams about bringing a movie of her own to theaters. She called it The Magic Bracelet. Eventually she became to ill to see her story come to life, but the Make a Film Foundation and Young Adult writer Diablo Cody helped raise money to fund The Magic Bracelet. Rina’s family continues to pursue her dream. Visit the official Facebook page and website for updates.
Photo credit: Nicole Beauchamp
Oliver Stone has a penchant for conspiracy theories and controversy. Just look at his version of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the suspected cover-up that ensued. However, with his 2006 movie, World Trade Center, the director wanted to create a poignant dedication to the people affected by the national tragedy. “It’s an exploration of heroism in our country — but it’s international at the same time in its humanity,” he told reporters. The film proved to be cathartic for some groups, but Stone also backed his words with a sizable monetary donation that has helped soothe the souls of many. Ten percent of box office sales from the film’s first theatrical week went to four organizations — including the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation to help build reflecting pools on the site of the original towers. They contain the names of every person who died in 2001 and the 1993 bombing.
This May, we’ll get to see Simon Pegg return to the role of Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness. The part was made famous by late Canadian actor James Doohan, who played the Scottish Chief Engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the 1966 TV series, through the films into the 1990s. We can thank Doohan for contributing yet another moving story to the Star Trek canon. The actor received a fan letter, which actually turned out to be a suicide note. He contacted the young woman and asked her to meet him at a convention where he befriended her with kind words of support. He invited her back to numerous fan conventions, but eventually she stopped showing up. Sadly, Doohan had lost her original letter with her address, and eight years passed before he heard from her again. It was a thank you note telling the actor he had inspired her to get her Masters degree in electrical engineering and that she was doing ok. Doohan tells the story much better than we do, and we couldn’t help but cry a few tears along with him.
Photo via Mad for Monaco
People tend to fixate on personal and professional rivalry between stars — gossip about so-and-so’s husband or wife leaving so-and-so for another love, or the hot parts screen icons vie for. It’s why the tabloids rage on. It’s always nice to hear about a genuine friendship between talented, creative people, which is why we appreciate the story of actresses Grace Kelly and Josephine Baker. Their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. For part of her childhood, Baker lived on the streets in the slums of St. Louis and fought for even the simplest things. Kelly came from a well-to-do Philadelphia family. Still, they had a deep admiration and respect for one another, despite the racially tense times. It started in 1951 at the famous Stork Club in Manhattan. Baker was refused service and Kelly — dining nearby, and an actress on the rise at the time — stormed out of the club with her party and Baker to show support. They remained close friends, and Kelly later helped Baker when she hit a major financial crisis, arranging for her to move into a new home. Grace said goodbye to her dear friend in 1975.
The mass shooting that happened at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado last year was devastating to everyone. Unsuspecting people there to watch a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises were killed and injured. Star Christian Bale — along with his wife, Sibi Blazic — immediately went to visit the victims in the hospital and pay respects to those lost at a memorial. “It was good for the patients,” the hospital president expressed. “We hope it was therapeutic for them, and all the staff really appreciated him coming.”