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A brilliant man would find a way not to fight a war.

- Admiral Yamamoto, Pearl Harbor

“Working beside a mother who’s going to raise her four children in the new home she is building will help you find faith in a way that so many other things won’t,” said Wallace.

“In Hollywood, you have people who, like other people, get preoccupied with who’s got the biggest parking space or the largest home. All that goes away when suddenly you’re building a Habitat house.”

We are all God’s instruments, whether we know it or not. All we can do is seek to keep faith.

- Aramis, The Man in the Iron Mask

After making his directorial debut with The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), Wallace wrote the screenplay for Pearl Harbor (2001). When he realized that he “couldn’t let go of those characters,” he expanded the story into a novel that made it to the New York Times bestseller list.

In another collaboration with actor Mel Gibson, Wallace wrote and directed We Were Soldiers (2002), which was based on Harold G. Moore’s book We Were Soldiers Once. . . And Young: Ia Drang--The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam . “Mansions of the Lord,” written by Wallace and Nick Glennie-Smith and featured over the end credits of We Were Soldiers , was performed as the closing hymn at the State funeral of former President Ronald Reagan. The U.S. Army has adopted the tune as one of its performance pieces honoring the American soldier.

I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive. We will all come home. Together.

- Lt. Col. Hal Moore, We Were Soldiers

After the story of We Were Soldiers “affirmed that real heroes exist,” Wallace turned back to Love and Honor , the 1,600-page manuscript he’d abandoned years before. He was ready to write an epic historical novel “which is what I had intended it to be.”

In the novel, Kiernan Selkirk is sent on a secret mission to the court of Catherine the Great by Benjamin Franklin, who hopes the empress can be dissuaded from sending Russian troops to support the British in suppressing revolt by the colonies. The novel is loosely based on fact: the British did seek Russia’s help to stamp out the revolution and the Cossacks were raiding Russian villages.

“Selkirk embodies the best of the characters I’ve written,” said Wallace. “He fights for his country, he sacrifices for the people he loves, and he believes in his heart that all people deserve to live free. I believe America was created by people like that.”

Central to both Love and Honor and Braveheart , said Wallace, is Luke 9:25: “What does a man profit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”

“That question is constant in my own life, and it keeps coming back in my work.”

 

 

In Catherine’s Cobalt Chapel

In April 2003, out from behind his writer’s desk to scout locations for his next film, Randall Wallace was apprehended by God’s grace.


Designed by Architect Chevakinski for Empress Elizabeth


 Domes of the Chapel of the Catherine Palace: In the tradition of the Orthodox Church the central dome represents Christ, the four smaller domes the Gospel Evangelists.

A tour of Tsarskoe Selo, the royal summer palace and favorite residence of Catherine the Great, concluded at the far end of the palace in the chapel. The guide led Wallace onto the balcony of the Cobalt Chapel, where Catherine and other Russian royals had worshipped during the 18th century.

The chapel’s crumbling paint reflected decades of neglect dating from 1917, when worship was outlawed by the Bolsheviks. During World War II, explained the curator, the German Army had used the sacred space as a garage for bicycles. At last, he said, funds had been secured to restore the chapel as the “crown jewel” of the palace in conjunction with St. Petersburg’s 300th anniversary.

He led Wallace to a point on the balcony and announced: “This is the spot where Catherine the Great stood for services. Where you are standing at this moment.”

Wallace, who has always tried to follow the path of his characters, looked below to the chapel’s flaking blue walls, finding it “beautiful, even in its dilapidated state.

“I noticed that the curator, who was silently staring down into the chapel below, had tears in his eyes. ‘We christened my daughter Anna here last year,’ he said. And then, after another even longer pause, he said, ‘The first person to be christened here since 1917.’

“I said, ‘Listen, I went to seminary in the United States, one of the finest, and I would love to encourage some of the students from there to come here to see you and see what you’re doing here and to get a deeper appreciation of the workings of God in history.’

“He said, ‘Come. We have to drink vodka together.’”


Watercolor by Edward Hau,1860


 Imperial Chapel: Designed by Chevakinsky, the chapel was built in pure Russian Baroque Style for Elizabeth I. Following its restoration, the chapel is again functioning as a religious space.

Over a shot glass, which was replenished as soon as Wallace emptied it, the curator explained that he and his wife had wished for a child for years. Countless visits to doctors and priests proved futile and the couple remained childless. His lifelong dream had been to save a modest amount of money to leave his children. But there had been no money under Communism, and even if he could save the money, there would be no children to whom to leave it.

Soon afterwards, the curator was asked by President Vladimir Putin to travel to Moscow to oversee the restoration of a museum, which was far behind schedule. The imminent deadline was a state visit from President Bill Clinton. He accepted the assignment and brought the project to completion in time for the state visit. As a reward, Putin presented the curator with the equivalent of $2,500.

Said Wallace, “He returned to St. Petersburg with this money, thinking ‘I always wanted to have something to leave my children, but it’s clear that there will be none. I will give this money to the restoration of the Cobalt Chapel.’

“And the day he wrote the check for the restoration, his wife called him to say that she was pregnant.”

Such encounters are “one of the incredible things to me about life and something I love about making movies,” said Wallace. “It gets you out from behind a desk and out into the real world. I’d like my films to be about the kind of people who inspire us to carry on even through the darkest hours. Watching them should make you come away with a sense of renewal.”

— Elisabeth Stagg

For more information about The Imperial Chapel, go to the official Web site at: http://www.alexanderpalace.org/catherinepalace/

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DIVINITY Online Edition :: Winter 2004 Volume 3 Number 2 Duke Divinity School