BPS 268: Dropping Acid & Winning an Oscar® with Ghost Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin

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Alex Ferrari 0:28
I like to welcome to the show, Bruce Joel Rubin. How you doing, Bruce?

Bruce Joel Rubin 0:32
Great thanks Alex doing well.

Alex Ferrari 0:34
Thank you so much for coming on the show, my friend. I'm very excited to talk to you. I mean, I, obviously I've been a fan of your work in the film industry with the films that you've written and directed and been part of, but also, I'm excited about your spiritual path and where you've been going with that throughout your life as well. So, but my very first question I have to ask you is what? How did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

Bruce Joel Rubin 1:00
Um, I don't think I knew that exactly. I had a bit of a skill set. I know, I was reading poetry and fourth or fifth grade, and my mother would read it to my aunt's and they would go, Oh, this is wonderful. And I would feel, you know, filled up by that. But I know I didn't know that I kind of loved theater from a very young age. And I kind of got interested in movies. If I was four years old, but I didn't see film as an art form until I was in high school. I saw you know, the magician seven or magician seven seal, bear in mind, and then some Antonioni, etc. And I realized it was probably worthy. And, and then I just felt, I would like to make movies writing movies was like a doorway to making movies. But there's a whole other step from writing movies to directing movies, or forget writing, just go right to directing. And I have a lot of friends who did that. But I really, I found the doorway for me was a writers door.

Alex Ferrari 1:58
Now, how did you break into Hollywood? Because even in the 80s, little, I would imagine was a bit easier than it is today. But it was still hard.

Bruce Joel Rubin 2:08
I don't know that there's a doorway to Hollywood, I've always told people you have to go through the crack underneath the door, you know, not open for anybody really? I don't know. I mean, I didn't really get a career going until I was in my 40s. So there was no easy path at all. I just, I think the biggest problem, and this is not mine alone is most people's is, what do I write about? What's what's my subject? What's my story? What do I have to say to people, and if it's only that I want to be rich and famous and a Hollywood celebrity, well, you know, take any path you want, in a way. But if, if you have something more than that going on, then then that's, that's different than you then you have a story you have to begin to imbibe, in a sense. And my story kind of arrived in the 60s, my, my roommate, was a very good friend of Timothy Leary, and would go up to Millbrook on a regular basis and do LSD and persuaded me that I should try LSD, SS 1964. And five, I can 65. And he gave me a very big tablet. And he said, When the right night is happens, let me know. And I said, you know, Barry, today's the day, I'm going to do it. And interestingly enough on that very day, the man who brings Timothy Leary, that pure LSD from Sandoz laboratories and Switzerland, arrived in New York City and came to my apartment. And he asked Barry, could he leave this jar of pure acid, LSD, Lysergic acid in my refrigerator overnight before they all went up to Millbrook and Tim Leary. And Barry said, Sure, you can kind of tell where the store is going. Quick and Dirty of it is, I took the 65 milligrams of Berry gave me for a big hit of a trip and nothing happened. So he said, Well, we just happened to have this jar in the refrigerator, and he got a dropper, and he went to give me a drop anyway. And the whole eyedropper 1000s of milligrams of shooting down my throat. And I knew at that moment that there was nothing I could do about it at all. And so somewhere during the next three to 4 billion years, I don't know exactly. I went on a journey that was was remarkable on every level. And I could spend your whole program talking about that, but I won't.

Alex Ferrari 4:40
Please dive in a little bit though, please. I want to Yes,

Bruce Joel Rubin 4:43
Well, it's just the disintegration of everything you know and believe, including who you are, what you are, that you have a life that you have a body that you are existent, separate from anything else. You connect to the big boys to the to the bigger picture in a really massive way and And then you I thought I was dead, I thought I, there was nothing, there was literally nothing left. And then in the middle of nothing, which is also timeless and spaceless, something happened that I can only describe as a kind of impregnation, something dropped into whatever I was, and I divided in half quarters eight sixteenths on and on. And the next thing I know, my fingernail and part of the room is coming back and my elbow and my head and the space I was in, and then this whole thing reconfigured itself in a huge way. And it was completely back to where I had been. And I started laughing and roaring with laughter. And I said, Why am I back, and this voice clear as day and I wouldn't say it was loud, but it was pretty instructive. It said, your back to tell people what you saw. And then I spent the next however many years trying to figure out what it was, I'd had sing, I was given a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu song of God, which is an approach to mystical experience. And I discovered, of course, the Tibetan version of that, and then the Judeo Christian versions and Muslim versions, and there was a worldwide network of people with mystical experience I gathered that was my experience in a way that I could begin to grasp with my mind, but what had happened was so beyond mind, and, and I didn't quite know what to do with it. And I began, I hitchhiked around the world for a year and a half. I had a job as a filmmaker, editor at NBC News, I gave that up. And I decided I had to go to India, with a long stop in Greece, before I went, where I was just reading everything in sight of these books aren't doing it. So I continued, you know, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India. I mean, I went this long route, which was wonderful and informative and essential. And somewhere in the middle of Afghanistan, I had a dream that said, you have to make a masterpiece. I had no idea what that meant, or how I would even know if that ever had happened. But it was like a requirement. Then I came back. Well, long story goes on and on. I ended up in Japan having not found anything I thought would be a teacher. I had met with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama for a day trying, thinking I was going to tell him because he was going to talk to the UN what what the Western concepts were of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism and how ShangriLa like it was going to be but he was so far ahead of me. And in the end, we talked and talked and he was he offered to be my teacher. And I went you know, I just don't think you're my teacher. But find a teacher, would you be open to my coming back? And he laughed and said, of course, which is the first time that ever happened because I've met other teachers who if you don't say now it's over forever. So that was pretty amazing. And, and so I continued with my journey, I did not find a teacher at that point, I ended up in Tokyo. In a record store, the Beatles had just done a record called Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And there was another record by a group called surrealistic pillow Jefferson Airplane called surrealistic pillow. And Gracie slick sing a song called Don't you need somebody to love? And that was like, that was the end of my understanding of what I needed in life. And I came back to America. And my friend said, you want to meet a girl? I said, Yes. They introduced me to the woman who became my wife. I went home and told her this whole story. I went home to her home. And I said, Do you want to be with me for the rest of my life? She said yes. Which is kind of shocking and amazing. 55 years at this point, there's a lot more than story than this, obviously. Little tips of the iceberg. The same day I met her I met this guy named Rudy Rudy was a New York City antique dealer with Asian art. I was trying to sell some Tibetan carpets for Tibetan monks I had lived with in Katmandu. He was not interested. He asked what I was doing in India, I said, I was looking for a teacher. He said, Did you find what I said? No. He said, Well, I can teach you everything you want to know. Well, I mean, I saw there was enormous hubris on that I didn't know if I should believe it or not. I went to a class that he conducted. And I sat there and he looked at me and I fell flat on the floor, exploded onto the floor. And every time I looked at him, I go and I started sitting on the floor. And, and at that time, I realized I was gonna have stories to tell. I didn't know what they were, but I knew where they were coming from. And I also knew that the guys upstairs whoever whatever is going on here, whatever name you want to give it, nothing is everything this god you No, some nirvana. I mean, it's it goes on and on. But it wanted to make sure I was committed to this. And I ended up as a film curator at the Whitney Museum. And my teacher Rudy died. And I needed to continue my studies, I thought with a teacher in Indiana, and I gave up my job as a curator. And during the time in Indiana, I wrote a movie called brainstorm, and endless stories behind all of this, but the film got made. And while we were in Hollywood, at the premiere, we had lunch with Brian De Palma, who said to my wife, if you want a career in Hollywood, Bruce, you got to move here. We were then living in DeKalb, Illinois, where she was a professor of art at Northern Illinois University. I was teaching public speaking. And we were barely surviving, and she quit her job. And she put our house on the market said, we're moving to Hollywood, I had no career, I had nothing but I had written a script called Jacob's Ladder, which for some reason, actually caught the attention of people in Hollywood. And an article came out about the 10 best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. And for some reason, I've later learned out why it was considered one of the 10 best scripts, and in a way that opened the door for me. And I ended up going to Hollywood. The first agent I got said, just the week before we moved, I can't represent you. Nobody wants to make movies about ghosts. Because I come up with an idea. I had no agent. But somehow, the universe started to click in in major ways. I got an amazing agent who said I was my scripts, why he got into business. And as named Jeff Sanford, and I moved up to Hollywood, and he had worked for me almost immediately, my wife got a job at the Getty charging, they're evaluating their art program around the country, and our life took off. It just took off and then films got done. And, of course, you know, when you do a film, like brainstorm, which had every possible problem that could go wrong in a movie, including Natalie were dying, for it was finished. And I don't consider that a problem, but a tragedy. But But But what I realized is having a film made in Hollywood is not a doorway, to Hollywood, it's like having a child you lost you don't talk about it. And if you make films that don't make money, they don't have no currency in the business. But I did, luckily. And still, to this day, don't know how right this film Ghost. And for reasons beyond me, it became highly celebrated and recognized and financially viable, like the number one film of 1990. How did that happen? I don't fully know. But I do know that that opened the doors for a career. And from that time on, I was working.

Alex Ferrari 13:05
So there's a lot to unpack there. Yeah, that was just like a little snippet of your experience.

Bruce Joel Rubin 13:16
Go ahead.

Alex Ferrari 13:17
Yeah, there's like a lesson, a little snippet of your experience. But the LSD alone, just when you because it's one of my I've never taken LSD. I've never taken the psychedelics, but I'm fascinated with the spiritual implications of the work that's being done now in at Harvard, and many other many other universities around the world are really studying for PTSD and so many other things. The volume, the dosage, you took is, is is insane. Like, that's not that even in a controlled environment, what do they give you?

Bruce Joel Rubin 13:55
I don't know. But I would say 20th Hundreds of what I took something like, you know, I mean, and now there's a lot of micro dosing, which may be a smart move. Also, I should, you should know that the LSD, I was taking this from Sandoz laboratories, you know, it was the pure of the purest of the pure, and it's no longer like that. So I don't, I'm not a salesperson for LSD at all chap, grabs more psilocybin, but even then, I don't know. I mean, you know, all I know is what happened. At that moment in time, everything changed, and my life became a different life. And it somehow impacted me with this need to tell people what I saw, which is, in a way why I even said yes to this interview, because I don't turn down the opportunity to share the story. It's, it's meaningful, I can't I don't want to be a promoter of a drug, or even in the end meditation, you know, I mean, I've done meditation for 5050 some years. I have to say, oh, Ah, I think meditation is wonderful. But most Americans I know are not really geared to tell me why we love meditation, meditation or that lifestyle. So I've reduced all of that. And I'll do this quickly because it's a speech field. But basically, it all comes down to me to be a good person, and be kind. And if you can be reactively kind of people, when everything in you wants to do the other, that can turn things around inside you, that would be similar to what a meditative life would do. In other words, it changes the reaction to the viewer, rather than the doer and the reactor. And if you can become that person, which, interestingly enough, is the key teaching of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. So I have decided, even though I said no to his teaching, all those all those decades ago, in the end, he truly in a way has been my teacher as he has been a world teacher. But the key teaching is Be nice, be kind.

Alex Ferrari 15:56
So it seems that it just from what you're telling me with, with your experience with LSD, it just kind of just tore everything away all the materialistic, all the concepts, all the programming that you've gotten up to that point, was all wiped away to show you the truth, essence, the truth, the oneness, all of that,

Bruce Joel Rubin 16:16
With no way for the mind to comprehend it.

Alex Ferrari 16:19
It's a different, you're, you're comprehending it on a different level than the mind.

Bruce Joel Rubin 16:22
You're, you're just knowing that.

Alex Ferrari 16:24
Right! Exactly. And that's why I've told people differences, like there's belief, and then there's a knowing, and there's very different ideas.

Bruce Joel Rubin 16:33
And there's another element of more verb, verb, beyond knowing which is being. Right. So one learns to go from the knowing into the being. And in a way, there's a very non dualistic aspect of this, there's not a me and to you or me and a knit, or me trying to do, all that gets gets wiped out. So there's only the beam which is infinite and eternal, and everywhere, around us all the time, almost never proceed by a human mind, which is so involved in the mee, mee, mee, mee sort of idea, and which is programmed to be like that. So I'm not saying it's, in a way a bad thing to be, to be human being and to be a person. And all of that is really an unbelievable gift and full of awe and grandeur and beauty and all these things, you know, but we don't see it. So the sadness about being a human being who doesn't recognize any of that, except maybe on the doorway out, I don't really know, is to miss the boat, you know, and to not find it while you're here. And that's their sadness. And that because this is an amazing thing we're in, you know, yes, beyond beyond and, and it's hard to imagine the world being, in many ways what it is in so many negative ways, because there's a real yin yang to all of it, there's a good and an evil and all those things play out. But there's also the witness, and there's also the state in which it occurs. And being the witness to that state or being one with that state is remarkable. I mean, just remarkable and want something we're all capable of. But, you know, our culture doesn't talk about it at all. We talk about his belief and you know, go to church every, every Sunday morning or synagogue on Friday night or Saturday morning, or whatever your particular teaching is. And, and you know, and I used to do that when I was young, and everything was all about who's wearing what, how are they look beautiful tonight.

Alex Ferrari 18:27
Sunday best, sunday best.

Bruce Joel Rubin 18:30
There was never a sense of anything greater going on. It was stand up, sit down, you know, prep, sing and pray. But But there's more than that. And I don't want to be a proselytizer so I can move on to other topics. But this is clearly the doorway to what became a career. Now, because of that,

Alex Ferrari 18:53
And now that you've told me about your experience, Jacob's Ladder makes so much more sense. I mean, that script, I remember I was working at a video store when that came out. I was working at a store when I was high school or ADA 293. So I recommended Jacob's Ladder, and people were just like, and either you loved it, or you were like, What the hell? What kind of trip was I on? Can you imagine a studio trying to make Jacob's Ladder today? Could you imagine?

Bruce Joel Rubin 19:20
It would not happen. And yet, it's an important film in a certain Yes. And that creates, it really does depict what the Tibetans call the Bardo state, the state that is either right after you die or right as you are on the edge of dying, where you need to fix the mind and the understanding of what you are, who you are, what your life was. It's a it's full of blame. It's full of darkness is full of fantasy. It's full of all these things, but trying to get to the pure center. If you can do that in that period of timeless time and get it worked out which is what Jacob is doing. Basically, you become a, I would guess, liberated free person or at least able to move on into whatever follows.

Alex Ferrari 20:08
Did you? Were you happy with the way Adrian Lin directed that film? And like, because it's such a, it's not an easy film to direct. I mean, that's a it's that script is not an easy script to produce. I think he did a fantastic job. I'm just curious. It's like, did he capture the essence of what you wanted?

Bruce Joel Rubin 20:25
Again, another long story. Yes. On level, yes, we had an immediate disagreement about it, which, in a way, resolved itself on his terms, but probably the right terms. And mine was that I had done a kind of biblical version of that journey. There were demons, very classical demons, Blake, like, imagery, there was a real Jacob's Ladder, like, like this long staircase into heaven. And all these, what Adrian will call Spielbergian touches. And he said, I can't do that. I won't do. And he didn't say that right away. But I, but he did say it. And he said, it's just he said, those are classical images, and people will laugh at them. He said, We have to find another version of that. And he showed me this image of a woman with little growths coming out of her head. And they were very disturbing. He said, those are the horns I want, rather than horns, little little cancerous like growths, that makes people get really uncomfortable. He said, I want it to look like that, that the movie has to be based in physiology of the human being. And it has to have that kind of touchstone for people who watch the movie to become deeply uncomfortable, as they watch it, rather than free to say, well, that's just classical biblical imagery. So he was right about that. And we dialogued about it a lot. And, you know, there was a lot of frustration and some ways on my part as I had to give things up, and story upon story in a way, but I think in the end, he made the right movie. Now, we did some work toward a month before releasing the film, cut out 1/5 of the film, the ending, I heard about that. And, and it was because audience's reactions were no better or worse, when the ending was removed. And the ending was very full of kind of turning the wheel again, you know, it didn't really give new information, but it elaborated stuff. And as I watched it, I realized, you know, you can lose it. And I, in the end, voted with the larger team, to say, drop it from the film. And then if I watched Jacob's Ladder, in those days, I would miss it. But I then watched it 30 years later, not that long ago. And I'd forgotten all about that stuff. And I just watched the movie, and I was incredibly moved by it. I did not expect it. I found its heart was there. And and it didn't miss anything. And it also taught me a lot about writing and about explorative writing that sort of recapitulates things that don't need to be recapitulated. You know, the, the core of our story is a very, very simple thing, really, but very many very, very people who write movies in Hollywood. Don't don't they don't get the simple line of it. And neither neither do producers or executives. It's kind of shocking. But there are some very simple things you need and Jacob's Ladder, Jacob's Ladder, found those and got it on film. And it is a very trippy experience. And I'm told, I don't know firsthand that a lot of kids in college, sophomore year get stoned and watched Jacob's Ladder. It's like a rite of passage. I think that's great.

Alex Ferrari 23:56
That's amazing. Now that other little movie you you wrote in your career ghost you know, I for people listening who are younger. The impact of ghost when it when it came out was it just was everywhere. It was in the zeitgeist, it was pop culture. I mean, how many references of the, the, you know, the, you know, the pottery scene was and you must laugh every time you see them. I mean, the jokes and the spoofs. And I mean, that scene has been done so many times. That what fascinates me about that movie, as well as one of the guys who did airplane is director of ghosts. And I remember in the theater, when his name came up, I'm like, what, like, even then I was like, What is going on? But my first question about ghosts is how did that story come to life because it's so beautiful and so touching. And it's so you know, it just goes along with your filmography so beautifully, but what came what was the genesis that idea

Bruce Joel Rubin 25:00
I wanted to tell the story of a person on the other side of a ghost, who's comes back to try to save a woman he loves and to tell her that he loves her. That was the real kind of the genesis, but I didn't have much of a story. And I was trying to figure out, how do I get that story to work, and I was watching production of Hamlet. And Hamlet has a very big ghost story. And one of the big things is his father as a ghost, comes to him, tells him what happened, and says, revenge my death. And I thought, ah, there I go. That was my that was the gift. So I decided, my guy, Sam wheat, had to discover what happened to him, had to know how to know that he was killed by someone had to find out who that someone was, had to discover that his wife was in jeopardy, and that he needed to communicate with her and save her. And he was dead. And he was a ghost and couldn't touch anything. He was present in her life. He was there all the time. But he was an invisible presence. And he had to figure out how to become empowered. And so the idea of a psychic was came up as someone who you could talk to, and then a friend of mine had this idea that should be it should be a fake psychic, which is a brilliant, brilliant, that changes everything. And then I just started weaving all of that, together into a story. And, and the film started become what's called a four quadrants film, which means it can talk to audiences at every level of kids and adults and seniors. And also that it was sad and dramatic and scary and funny. And it had all those things, working in it, but they worked together. I was of course, worried when Jerry Zucker was proposed as a director, but as you would well, before Jerry Frank Oz was going to do it. And I loved the idea of Frank Oz doing it. But he wanted to erase every single shadow in the movie, because it goes couldn't cast a shadow. I said, Frank, that's not going to matter story. It's going to take over, no one's going to see shadows. I took them to see blade spirit on Broadway. So look at all the shadows. They're taking out of the shadows started to be a budget so far beyond the production capacity, that that we decided to step separate. Milos Forman wanted to direct it. I flew out to Connecticut met a meeting with him very unexpectedly odd kind of experience. His whole idea was that Molly should die at the end, and that she should go off to be with Sam and heaven. And I. And all I could think of was, this is Milos, he's going to call Paramount saying I want to do this movie. He's going to do it his way. I'm not going to have a word of any of mine in this movie. But I wrote ahead to the executive to Lindsay Duran, who was the vice president in charge of this film, and central in my life on many levels. And, and I told her what everything he said. And so even before he called the studio, they said, No, we're not going that direction. But then she called me said, Are you sitting? And I said, Yes. She said, we found a great director for your film. I'm thinking Scorsese Spielberg,

Alex Ferrari 28:18
Right. Yeah.

Bruce Joel Rubin 28:20
She said, Jerry Zucker. And I, and I thought, of course airplane. I mean, I thought all the comedies and I thought, you know, Beetlejuice had just come out. So everybody's, they're gonna turn this into an uproar, approving comedy. But they were, they were very serious about Jerry at Paramount. So they wanted us to get together and I did something which was smart. I think. I arranged to have dinner with Jerry. But I said one ground rule. We can talk about anything except ghost. And he agreed to that. And so we just talked, and we talked and talked and to this day, we talk and we talk this is formed a friendship that was indelible and remarkable and continues. But when we ended up talking about ghost, I wrote 19 drafts for him. And after 10, it was such a different movie, that I was ready to quit. And I thought, we have ruined everything. And then he started to see it through my eyes. And we started bringing it back. And we got another nine drafts. And by the time they were at the 19th draft, it was the right movie, his ideas, my ideas. They had merged, cross fertilize, it was really amazing. And we had the movie we wanted, and it was a good script. And I was very excited about it. And then even in the production, where most writers have told you, no, we don't need you or want you wrong. You're not on the set. Jerry had me on the set every day. And so we were together. And there was a communion between writer and director, which almost never happens. And I think ghost is a living proof that it can be a good thing if you do it.

Alex Ferrari 29:58
And then you know how airing. Patrick Swayze Demi Moore will be Colbert, I mean, those Tony Goldwyn Golan. I mean, just the cast was so perfect.

Bruce Joel Rubin 30:12
We remember Schumann's

Alex Ferrari 30:15
Right! I mean, I mean, Patrick Patrick essentially was dirty dancing at that point. And he was not a he wasn't a bonafide started than Roadhouse a year earlier. You know, he's like, A, and Demi Moore.

Bruce Joel Rubin 30:26
She's really, she was pretty much the the money. She was a yes, but everybody else was over our dead body.

Alex Ferrari 30:34
Really. So you have to fight for Patrick.

Bruce Joel Rubin 30:37
I had to Jerry didn't want Patrick at all. Yeah. And I talked to his agent. And I said, have it here and have him offered to read, have him come to the reading and a suit and tie. And I've been she arranged for me to have a phone call with him. I told him wear a suit and a tie and a jacket and all this stuff, carry a briefcase. And I told him what scenery, which was the end of the movie. And he did all of that. And Jerry was sitting there crying, as was the producer, Lisa Weinstein, me and, and, and Jerry said to me, as soon as he left the room, he said, If I ever say over my dead body, that's what we hired.

Alex Ferrari 31:14
So that was, and it worked out. It worked out.

Bruce Joel Rubin 31:17
It worked out great, I think and what he was not my first choice I was very afraid of over the top kind of performance. And I was very hesitant about it. And I was completely wrong. I just completely wrong. She won the Oscar, Oscar and she was brilliant. She was totally brilliant. I just loved her in that film and just love being around her. So in the end, we were very, very blessed with that movie.

Alex Ferrari 31:40
Well, the thing with will be in her performance is that she kept she that counterbalance of the seriousness. I mean, you That movie was it's such an intense movie, in many ways. Without the breaks of the comedy that she brought, and it wasn't over the top comedy was just just enough to break those scenes up. It wouldn't have worked without a will be it I mean, the whole thing just was a perfect writer.

Bruce Joel Rubin 32:06
We tried it we interviewed a lot of major actresses for that part. And I gotta tell you, I thought I'd written the worst worst part ever. Didn't work out. I mean, every every major black actor in Hollywood, tried out for it, including Tina Turner, who was not an actor. And you know, Alfre Woodard, the unknown, and they all tried out. They're all wonderful, but they were not what we needed. And what B was what we needed. That's amazing. When she came on board, it worked.

Alex Ferrari 32:33
So the movie comes out. It is a monster hit. I remember at the video store, there was white VHS cases, if you remember correctly, that was unheard of. I never seen anything like that. Because it was such a big movie. It's kind of like a marketing promotional thing. It was just a massive, massive hit number one movie of the year. I think Tom Malone came out that year if I'm not mistaken. And it beat home. Well, it was an insanely big hit. Then you go to the Oscars, and you win. What is it like first of all, the World Wind of being in the in the center of that hurricane, the ghost hurricane? Because I mean, and I love that you preface this, this conversation wherever you're going right now with this enlightened path that you've walked, you know, in breaking down everything with that trip that you did in everything that you were, I think ready also at an age to ready for this kind of success ready for this kind of attention. Because it would crush most souls. Most people Correct?

Bruce Joel Rubin 33:29
Oh, you honestly the universe was very conscious in withholding any kind of feedback from me. I would never meet people who saw the movie, except for my family. I was in a cab. In New York City. The guy said what do you do as a screenwriter? What have you written this movie called ghost? It was on every billboard. He said, Oh, I think I heard of that. A woman in line behind me at a restaurant says to a friend of ours you see that horrible movie Ghost. And that's what I got. I mean, that's that's really all I got. And the universe by giving me Hollywood was basically sending me on a track that is really very common for writers which is destruction of ego mind. Because so often they take away what you do give it to other people, other people's voices get in other people's hands get dirty with it, and in the end of the movie looks like what you feel lucky by getting the Oscar I don't know what it meant. It was an odd moment for me. I'd always wanted one since I was a kid, but having it felt like done. Something was done. Now I don't know if that voice that I heard in Afghanistan. Does it do a masterpiece? I don't know if ghost is a masterpiece. I don't claim

Alex Ferrari 34:48
I'd argue. I'd argue it's a beautiful film

Bruce Joel Rubin 34:51
You know, to me. I got this award that said recognition on some level. You went on my bed stand when I got home and never moved It's not highly displayed. You know, you walk into certain offices in Hollywood and all you see are the awards first. I, to me it was the it was getting something done on my journey that needed to be finished. That was really important. I happened when I was on Hong Kong on victorious peak at the end of my round the world journey. And I was sitting up there and something in me again said, done, that I had gone around the world. And somehow I had completed something, maybe from another life. I don't know how that works. But whatever it was, it was done. That was a great thing. Oscar Dunn, put stuff aside, move on, move on to whatever follows. But it's not to sit around and go, Hey, look, look at I am. Because one of the things you realize on the LSD trip, and the Bardo state of Jacob's Ladder is they tear all that away. You know, they just take your whole life away. And there's actually a teaching in Jacob's Ladder, which is really crucial from a 16th century century theologian. And, and he said, if you're afraid of dying, holding on, you'll see demons tearing you from your flesh. If you're open to dying, the same demons or angels, freeing you from the earth, it's a matter of where you have arrived in your life. And that really is kind of essential, and the theologian has named Meister Eckhart. He's a great theologian. But that's really what the human journey is, are you attached to you? Because you don't leave this world with you? They take it they take everything away? Are you able to go like this? Or are you going like that, and that's kind of the human journey. And very few people I know have gotten to this, but you can, my mother in law without any spiritual life of any kind at all, and kind of angry at lots of people and a lot of stuff. Slowly as she lost her mind, and dementia. She arrived at her last words to me, which was silent work. And it said everything. So you don't have to sit and meditate your whole life away. You just have to whatever it takes, because she was a good person, you just have to get to this, you know, and that's really meaningful and valuable.

Alex Ferrari 37:18
That's such a powerful, powerful idea of the demons and the angels. It is such a powerful idea. Because it's the same action. It's just about perspective. Remarkable. So you, as far as once you got the Oscar and you were in town, and everybody's like, you're the best, you're the best. You're the greatest. The ego didn't get out of control you. It was completely. You had it on a lot.

Bruce Joel Rubin 37:44
Okay, a quick story. I'm walking out of the Paramount commissary with an executive. And he's telling me, and this is before the script was starting to happen really was just beginning. He said, You wrote the best script I've ever read in my life. And I went, Wow, a week later, I'm walking out of a commissary, he's in front of me with another guy. And he's telling the other guy, I want you to know, you wrote the best script I've ever read in my entire life. And I went, Oh, that's how it works.

Alex Ferrari 38:15
And they're my friend is Hollywood.

Bruce Joel Rubin 38:17
That is Hollywood. That is Hollywood. There's a lot, a lot to be learned from all of that. And if you want, you know, some people get crushed by it, and just sadness and misery. And some people and I've been one of the lucky ones who get kind of like freed from it. I don't walk around with a night Hollywood identity at all. It's it's so past tense. I'm glad I had it. It was a really it was a great ride. But mostly it's crashing, you know, the things that stuff is taken away and changed and altered. And, you know, you wouldn't believe the ride of a writer in Hollywood. Most people don't. It is brutal. I'm reading an autobiography whether it will ever put it out or not. I don't know. But it really does capture what it means to be that person to be a writer in this business, because I haven't seen any books about it that really it's nothing that talks about that the real heart of what you go through. On the other hand, what an honor to be able to write movies that speaks speak to hundreds of millions of people

Alex Ferrari 39:19
Without without question and one of my other one of the other films in your filmography that really touched me and is the one that you directed My Life with Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman, and it is, these are these are movies I would never get made today. None of them and most of most of your filmography would never get made today by the studio system. But that's to be said by many people of the 90s and 80s and 90s. But that film is so touching even when I was saw it when it came out. I was still a young man. It moved me now looking back I have children now. I've just like it's a completely different experience watching a film like that. Where did that idea come from? And for that People have not heard about what the movies about. Can you give it like a you know quick little logline about it?

Bruce Joel Rubin 40:05
Yeah, it's simple logline, which if our studio head would say no. The guy who's dying of cancer who discovers that he's going to have his first child, and he will not live long enough to meet that child. And he wants to leave something that will represent who he is to his family, but he has no idea really who he is. So it's a movie of discovering, finding out who he is, and what he can leave for this

Alex Ferrari 40:32
300 million 300 million budget easy.

Bruce Joel Rubin 40:38
I mean, again, 1000s of stories, and it was the most poorly reviewed movie I ever did ever worked on. It was so bad that I went into like a spiraling depression for about nine months. I think it was, I mean, it was really a killer.

Alex Ferrari 40:53

Bruce Joel Rubin 40:56
People hate well,

Alex Ferrari 40:58
It found it found its audience, it found its audience,

Bruce Joel Rubin 41:00
Because it's found its audience. And it's been incredibly sort of meaningful to me. But the what finally gave it a voice. And it's a story kind of worth telling to other writers in that I went to a party some months after it came out. And a woman came up to me and she said, I understand you wrote the movie in my life. And I said, Yes. And she said, I have to tell you something. My husband died three years ago, and I had a 10 year old son. And he and I were never able to talk about his father's passing. She said, I found out just recently that I have terminal cancer. And the idea of leaving this world, without a dialogue with my son was so painful. But we went to this movie theater and saw this film my life. And my son was sobbing. And we came home. And he sat down on my lap, and we had the conversation that I needed to have in order to leave this planet. So I want to say thank you. And I went and now I knew I made the movie. One or two people. It was it was perfect. I didn't need anybody else.

Alex Ferrari 42:11
But if it happened for those two, I'm sure it happened for many others around the world. And that's why it's found its voice around, because it's not an easy conversation to have at all, and you made it palatable with that story and Michael Caine's performance.

Bruce Joel Rubin 42:28
Talks about it positive, he says, People ask him about that movie more than anything else. You really want to know about Beatle

Alex Ferrari 42:36
Beetle Juice, Batman, all the major things he's done in his career. And he's like that little movie. I did call my life. But he was so brilliant in it. And he was, he was great. He was amazing.

Bruce Joel Rubin 42:47
Nicole was perfect. Nicole Kidman was brilliant. And Queen Latifah got her first big acting job. That's right. That's right. It had it had a place in the history of Hollywood. But not for me. It was like it was it just tore me apart.

Alex Ferrari 43:04
So how did you how did you come out of that? That because look, we all go through that we all have something happens to us that we will go down that dark road? How did you come out of that dark road, even with all the experience and knowledge that you have about consciousness and oneness and everything?

Bruce Joel Rubin 43:19
Rudy was just brilliant, brilliant. He said, a pattern that takes you nine years to work through at one point will occur again and take nine months. And that will occur and take nine weeks, and then it will be nine days. And then it will be nine hours. That'll be nine minutes. And it'll be nine seconds. So be prepared things that can take huge toll on you. And you're allowed to be like this, you know, and I have learned that.

Alex Ferrari 43:44
You know, he's really so right.

Bruce Joel Rubin 43:47
He was totally brilliant.

Alex Ferrari 43:49
I mean, because things that used to like wouldn't tear me up when I was a young man would take me months, then would take me weeks, then take it to now gotten to a point where it takes me seconds for something that would have derailed me for weeks even holding on to grudges and all this kind of stuff. You just let go of it much quicker as you get.

Bruce Joel Rubin 44:10
I mean, not everybody does that. Of course. Of course, if you can and do it. It's a great thing. And I learned a great deal from from that. And every other movie I did. I mean, I'd say a third of the movies that I wrote out made two thirds did not so I wrote a lot of other movies, but actually 1/3 is a fairly good ratio. And, and I and I learned from every single movie that I did, and every one of them taught me a different lesson. I worked with amazing personalities that all have stories behind them. But I really are. I came away with a big worldview. You know that that the Hollywood worldview of Hollywood and people who were highly successful and people who were on the way out the door and in between, but it's like, if you're going to study human experience, it's a great place because it's so blasted at you in a big way. So I'm grateful for that.

Alex Ferrari 45:02
What is the biggest lesson you think you took away from your time working in Hollywood?

Bruce Joel Rubin 45:07
Well, the lesson for me is, it's not an old thing so much as you know, stay humble, and don't think you are the identity that other people might thrust at you. You know, for me, it was it because they're still they're still doing it, I really call it the guys upstairs, and I call him but I got is just as good to work for me or whatever you want to call it, it's still directs me. And it's still very much it humbles me on every opportunity it can, because I see myself as nothing more than a conduit in a voice in a way. And I try to do the best version of that I can do my best scripts were, were taking dictation, you know, and I just follow, I follow what's what kind of I'm being given. I mean, it feels like you're writing and I can see why people think they, they did it, you know, until they can't, and they drink, and they do all these things to try to find our way back to it. But, you know, it's really, it's really a transmission in a sense. And it's working for the human race and for people and for the betterment of being in the world. You know, I mean, I think I personally believe I don't know this as a fact that at the core of this whole emptiness and nothingness that this comes out of the first thing that rises is love. And don't ask me how or why. But I've had that experience and all so many times when they dropped the bottom out underneath me even to this day, and there's nothing there. Nothing at all. And if it was a part of you, that reacts to it, that's the that's kind of go, you know, so if there's a part of you, that goes, Oh, you're racist. And then when there's absolutely nothing, and you just go, Okay, this thing starts to rise up, and it is a rising, ascending, lift up energy. And it starts with love. And then it goes into I mean, quote, beauty, and truth, start to flow into manifested form. And here we are, you know, and I see where it comes from. And I know it goes back to nothing, but I, you know, I don't, I don't care because that nothing is unbelievable. And when it starts to manifest, its beauty is beyond belief. And we are, it's one of its expressions, you know, there probably others way bigger than us and better than us. But we're, we're it's expression. And now AI is this expression. So it doesn't even need a body or a person he's just tapping in. And we were maybe not that maybe here just to create AI, you know, doesn't need food, it all needs electricity. You know, me, maybe a programmer at first, but then it's all you

Alex Ferrari 47:39
Just goes off and runs, it goes off and runs. I find it interesting because I've spoken to a lot of, you know, successful writers over the years. And when you're writing, I think it even as, as me as aren't when I write, the best writing I've ever done is when I feel like I'm not writing. It feels like it's coming through, is there something that you do in your process as a writer to kind of tap into that?

Bruce Joel Rubin 48:06
I get out of the way

Alex Ferrari 48:07
Just like, do you just do show up at a certain time? Do you like is it a routine or do you just a second you sit down you just go

Bruce Joel Rubin 48:15
In writing but but used to be, um, morning was rewrites, which made it easy. So I would sit down and fix what I did the day before and polish it and get in the gear in a way. Somewhere, I put lunch in there. And then the, the the movement and the activity was already in place. And I would create the new stuff in the afternoon. And I would try to write three to four pages a day. And if I did that over the course of 10 weeks, which is usually what you're contracted for in Hollywood, I would have a finished script. It would be a first draft it would need work and all that other stuff. But you know, I wasn't sitting looking over my shoulder being critical as I wrote because then you don't write then you're just sitting there rewriting the same scene 400 times and you don't even really know where it's going. You don't know how it's going to end up. So I think just right just let it out. See where it goes. Be surprised I love to be surprised movie. You know, when it when it happens. I remember when I was writing ghosts and a lot of the movies about how Sam never says I love you, he says did out. Right. And finally he comes back after all of this drama, and is able to say to his lover is the woman he loves. I love you for the first time. And she goes Ditto. I didn't expect her to say ditto. And the minute I was typing ditto, I just burst into tears. I mean, it was like poof, I was just completely taken over by by Molly being Molly not me being Bruce test. It was Molly, and she was writing what she needed to say. And that was incredible. And I get to be the witness of that. You know, I just did it and you know, you beat the characters live in you and they become alive. And then you have this moment that's really so personal and simple. I think a lot of people cried at that moment. And, you know, and so, you know, you're just the first person to get to see it.

Alex Ferrari 50:08
That's, that's remarkable. When you we the stories that you've talked about, and the stories they've written over the years have been about the unseen world is states on your, on your biography. What drew you to that was it again, back to that, that LSD trip that kind of just set you on the path that you like, I need to explore what we aren't seeing and putting this out into the mainstream.

Bruce Joel Rubin 50:36
Yeah, I'm being told to do it. You know, it was just saying, you know, you, you went around the world, you've read, you've looked, you've talked, you've experienced, you've had teachers, get it on screen, but get it on screen for the masses, not for the few, talk to the world, talk to the world, give them some insight. And so my experience is, every movie that I have done, is a sentence. And in the 12, or whatever movies I've made, that got produced, it's a paragraph. And it's all a paragraph about the same thing about the sense of time space continuum, the idea of there being something beyond that we don't understand, and, and that we're all on a journey to find it even funny little movies, like the last Mimzy which, you know,

Alex Ferrari 51:20
I love the last Mimzy such a fun movie,

Bruce Joel Rubin 51:23
I wanted to write for children, but adults came to me telling me how moved they were about that film. And, and, and part of me wanted just to go to children, including like Stuart Little to which I had a very real conception of that would impact little kids. But, you know, I was overruled in many ways on on that. And so some of the things I wanted to sort of plant and seeds may not have gotten planted. But I have learned I've just learned a lot. And last Mimzy was an interesting one, because it had a very strong Buddhist aspect. It's about these kids who find toys from the future. And who are who need to be have their we don't know this till the end, I don't know, shall I give away the ending? It's fine, it's fine. But the ending of the movie is the impregnation of this little creature that they find that will carry the DNA of a pure soul from the past into the future and save humanity. Really. But I that's not in the in the original digital short story called mimsy were the Borg groves that were, it was a TV pilot once for something and I saw it and it didn't have an ending. And I just didn't fit didn't know what it was. And nobody ever went with it. But I remember being like, what was the ending? What was the ending? It turned out, I had to be the one who did the ending. And the way the ending came to me was walking into the meeting at newline. With no idea, but all I could think of was Tibetans, and the Tibetans have this thing when the Dalai Lama dies, they have to find a new Dalai Lama. And the way they determine that is they take all the toys that were part of a Dali Lama's childhood, and they mix them up with all these other toys from other kids. And they go on a search that's led by psychics and people who have some insight. And they go to these new children and the one who picks all of his old toys. That's when they know who it is. And that, that lesson through the Dalai Lama was the one I walked into the meeting at newline with, and I sold it Michael Phillips was there he was done close encounters the third kinds and all these other wonderful films. And Michael got it. He just got it and said, yes, yes. And and somehow I then got the job of writing the movie. It was an eight year process, which

Alex Ferrari 53:42
Bob Shea, Bob Shea was, if I'm not mistaken, he was like, wanted it so bad. Like he really wanted to make it.

Bruce Joel Rubin 53:48
Yeah, he did. He directed it. He and I went to the same high school, which is kind of strange and interesting. But in the month before we were supposed to have this movie shot, he talked to Steve Jobs. And he said, Why is Pixar so successful? What is it about these movies are so successful? And and he said, we cut out everything that's not necessary. And Bob came to me and he said, Bruce, cut 30 pages. And I said, we're about to shoot this movie is, is locked in, we're going forward, cut it up, cut everything, it's not necessary. And he said, you know, he didn't say this. But clearly, I had a lot of Buddhist monks into interfering, if you will infiltrating the film. And I realized they're not going to survive. And I had to pull all of them out of the movie, all the scenes with them and 30 pages of stuff. And the movie came out. And I thought it was going to be so absent of what I had wanted it to be. And what I discovered is, if it's embedded in its core DNA, right, it doesn't matter what you pull out, it's still there. And I was so surprised by that, and so shocked that I I learned all these lessons. And so, you know, I'm not saying that it was right to cut all those pages, but the movie survived. It worked. It was a whole piece of cloth. And I was totally grateful for that.

Alex Ferrari 55:12
And I have to ask you, because you've had this, this effect on humanity with the work that you've done, because like you said earlier, your stories got out to millions, hundreds of millions of people around the world. What does it feel like for you as as a conduit for this information? How do you as your life's work as your life's work? How does that feel? Because you, you've impacted so many people with your work. And the one thing before you answer the one thing that I love about your stories, I've spoken to hundreds of screenwriters, Oscar winners, and starters, everybody. What I find really interesting about your journey as a writer, and as a human being as a soul, is that your work has a thread that connects all of them in how you can connect the last Mimsy to Jacob's Ladder. Is it valid, to say the least, works. But the thing is that you you had a very clear mission on what you were trying to do with your life with your career as a writer to help the world awaken a bit more. How does that feel? It was a was it a conscious effort? Or did you kind of just stumble upon it?

Bruce Joel Rubin 56:27
No, but the reward, the funny little rewards, one was deep impact, and trying to go off and inhibit a meteorite that's coming, or an asteroid to destroy the earth. And there were not a lot of people in this country who were thinking that was a real issue or a big problem, but it is a potential problem. And about two months ago, they actually sent a rocket off, and found that they could deflect a comet on its path to the earth. And I met with a lot of scientists and I met with a lot of congressmen after the film came out, trying to talk about this issue, because I said, and the movie said, this is a real issue. And so when I saw that comment, deflected, I thought, one tiny part of me has helped save, possibly the human race. I don't know. But that's a really tiny little sweet thing. And then I spent sent me an article just the other day out of nowhere, about this guy who's trying to use artificial intelligence to help people who have paralysis, total paralysis, to be able to move things with their mind. And he said the inspiration for him was when Sam wheat in Ghost, Penny up the door and caused it to float. He said, He saw that and that connected in his mind. And he has now created an AI program that is going to be able to is already helping people move things with their mind. And I went, wow. So little things like that. They don't I'm not walking around, carrying a you know, a big placard saying, Look what I did. Look what I did. I have no none of that at all. It's almost like a joke. I mean, I don't know if you this is about in July, the History Channel came out with something that someone sent me, which said, you know, the famous the most important thing that happened on this date in history. And the most important thing that happened on that date in history, which is the 13th of July 1990 was ghost opened and I'm gonna ghost go, that's the most important thing that happened. And I sent that to Lindsay Duran, who used to be the executive of Paramount and she said Murat sob died on that day. What do you mean, the ghost was the most important thing that happened on that day? And I look at it and in a way it's like it is like a laughable thing. I have no idea I don't own it. I don't care it's it was an interesting kind of wonderful ride and I'm grateful for the ride I would I would tell anyone in the world is open to losing their mind and their ego and everything else. If you want to journey into speaking to multiples of people and telling them something that might be worth saying one sentence, then that's that's it's worthwhile life.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:28
And where can people find out more about the work you're doing with your meditations that we didn't even touch on your photography and your meditation and what you teach? And also just to get access to your old scripts and things like that?

Bruce Joel Rubin 1:00:40
I think the scripts are online, I don't I have no idea. I see them every so often to come up to for sale, I don't know who's selling them. I have no idea. We've been teaching this meditation class, and I give talks that are on YouTube under my name, Bruce Joel Rubin. And there are 500 plus, now talk. So if anybody isn't totally bored already, with just what I've had to say, Here, you can check, you can check them out. The class I give is you have to be initiated into the actual practice, you can't just share it in general. So I don't and, you know, Rudy has to be one on one. And I try. And that's what I do. I try to share the practice one on one. But the lessons of that are all on talks, and I give after the classes and and I still teach them I've been teaching every Sunday for 50 50 years, or more and and they're just kind of what I'm learning week by week, you know, and I'm not trying to teach them as any ultimate anything, but they do, I think hope open minds and eyes a little bit to a way of looking that might be helpful.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:14
My friend, thank you so much for being on the show. It has been a pleasure and an honor talking to you and you're such an inspiration on multiple levels, not only in the filmmaking side, but on the spiritual side as well. I appreciate all the work you've done for humanity and for and for good storytelling, so I appreciate you my friend.

Bruce Joel Rubin 1:02:30
It's equal thank you so much.

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