To: The ones trying to get by, “My focus is to forget the pain of life. Forget the pain, mock the pain, reduce it. And laugh.”
If you get hold of this letter, I hope this reduces the pain in your life and brings you joy. I am now 57 years old, and my net worth is approximately $150million. But I was not always on the road to greatness. I was born in Ontario, Canada. Life wasn’t treating me well and that point I had no clue what I was in store for. What I always believed was that, it’s just about letting the universe know what you want and then working towards it while letting go of how it comes to pass. So I did. I studied at the ‘Blessed Trinity Catholic School’, North York, for a brief period of time, before joining the ‘Agincourt Collegiate Institute’.
I could study here only for an year, and then went to ‘Northview Heights Secondary School’. And then we moved to Burlington, and I pursued my education there. During this time, I started being interested in performing stand-up comedy acts, and I also used to entertain my classmates. As I said, life was not that great and due to financial difficulties faced by my family, I was forced to drop out, and help my parents earn a living. During which I served as a janitor for two years in a factory. I chose to make a conscious choice to see challenges as beneficial so that I can deal with them in the most productive way.
Then life became better, I made my professional debut as a standup comedian in a Toronto club at the age of 15 and by 1979 I was able to make a living as a comedian. “So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it” I also aimed at getting employed as an actor in television and movies, and was able to appear for a tryout of ‘Saturday Night Live’ produc e d by the ‘Nat i ona l Broadcasting Company’ (‘NBC’).
Listen, life doesn’t always give you what you want. It was not that suddenly everything in my life worked out perfectly well. I was rejected for the 1980-81 season of the show, and then this rejection turned my attention towards Hollywood films. The following year, I was featured on ‘An Evening at the Improv’, a stand-up comedy show aired on television. In 1983, I appeared on ‘The Tonight Show’, telecast on ‘NBC’. I was also signed up for two lowbudget movies, ‘Rubberface’ and ‘Copper Mountain’. The next year, I starred in the television serial, ‘The Duck Factory’, aired on ‘NBC’, in the main role of an artist.
Though the sitcom never saw the light of the day, it helped me bag more roles in Hollywood movies. It was in 1994, that I got my big break in Hollywood, with the film, ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’. Though the film did not go down well with most critics, it was a hit with the moviegoers, making a name for me as a star. During the same time, I was also cast in ‘Dumb a n d Dumber’, and ‘The Mask’. My performances in both the movies were highly appreciated, and I won the nomination for the ‘Golden Globe Award’ in the ‘Best Actor’ category, for the movie ‘The Mask’. In 1995, I acted as ‘Two-Face and the Riddler’ in the Michael Keaton starrer ‘Batman Forever’.
I also featured in the ‘Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls’, which again was a hit with audiences, though it didn’t impress movie critics much. ‘The Cable Guy’ was quite popular, during 1996-97, I was cast in two major roles in the movies ‘The Cable Guy’, directed by Ben Stiller, and ‘Liar Liar’. Both movies did exceptionally well at the box-office, with ‘Liar Liar’ becoming a favourite even with critics, and getting me another ‘Golden Globe’ nomination. In 1998, I started acting in another genre of serious movies, which was ‘The Truman Show’.
This satire brought critical acclaim and I finally proved how capable I was. I ended up winning the ‘Golden Globe Award’ in the ‘Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama’ category. Out of all the achievements, I learnt that desperation is a necessary ingredient to learning anything, or creating anything. Period. If you ain’t desperate at some point, you ain’t interesting. I was always learning, creating and growing. This is how I managed to keep pushing forward.
Three Years Later
I appeared in the movie ‘Bruce Almighty’, alongside Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Aniston. Though the movie was not much appreciated by critics, it went on to gross millions at the box-office. In 2004, I acted in a romantic scifi drama, surprising critics and audiences ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, where I was cast opposite Kate Winslet. The same year I also appeared in the dark comedy, ‘Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events’, adapted from a children’s book having the same title. From 2005 to 2007, I starred in several films, like ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’, and ‘The Number 23’, both of which received mixed reviews.
Life was good. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it was good. And there was this thing I always used to do, I wake up some mornings and sit and have my coffee and look out at my beautiful garden, and I go, ’Remember how good this is. Because you can lose it. Because materialistic things always fade away, we lose them. We have to be able to survive no matter what. I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer. In 2008, for the first time, I voiced an animated movie, for the character of an elephant in ‘Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!’.
I also featured along with fellow actors, Bradley Cooper and Zooey Deschanel, in the film, ‘Yes Man’. In 2009, I was in ‘‘I Love You Phillip Morris’, along with Scottish star, Ewan McGregor, receiving positive reviews about comic timing. The same year, I lent voices to the characters of Ebenezer Scrooge, as well as the three ghosts in the film, ‘Christmas Carol’. The list goes on. This letter was to tell you, that if you are hanging on to life with a thread, don’t lose hope. Because life is such that we will always be dragged down. Nobody shows the pain they go through, people tend to create a perfect image of their lives. But each one of us go through the hassle of getting by everyday. It is better to risk starving to death than surrender. If you give up on your dreams, what’s left?
Written by Devuni Goonewardene
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