De Pasquale’s Dozen with Movie Producer Mark Joseph

Lisa De Pasquale

7/30/2012 1:32:00 PM - Lisa De Pasquale

I first met Mark Joseph in 2010 when he was in D.C. to preview his latest movie, Doonby. I happened to be having dinner with one of the stars of the movie, Robert Davi. When Joseph introduced himself I realized that another friend, Ann Coulter, had been singing his praises to me for several years. In fact, Coulter recently told me he is a “Christian warrior!”

Joseph has worked in development and marketing on more than 20 films, including Ray, The Chronicles of Narnia, I Am David, Holes, and Because of Winn-Dixie. Additionally, he produced the soundtrack for The Passion of the Christ. Joseph is currently producing the movie Reagan. The movie will be based on the books by Paul Kengor. On why he was inspired by Kengor’s books, Joseph told me, “Reagan has often been called inscrutable and one of the reasons for this is because few people understood his faith. As a result he was either the guy who skipped church or a crazed fundamentalist who sat around debating when to start Armageddon. Thanks to Paul Kengor we know that he was neither and if he hadn't gone to the church that Reagan grew up in and asked to see the sermons that shaped him at a young age, our understanding of Reagan would be severely limited. God and Ronald Reagan helped us understand Reagan the man, while The Crusader helped us understand the nuts and bolts of the plan he developed to end the Soviet Union. Together they gave me the balance I was looking for."

Joseph is also the author of several books, including The Lion, The Professor & The Movies: Narnia's Journey To The Big Screen and Wild Card: The Promise & Peril of Sarah Palin.

It can be tough being a traditionalist in Hollywood, but Mark Joseph is not only committed to traditional principles, but also to producing good movies.

Each week the De Pasquale's Dozen asks political figures, free market-minded writers and entertainers to take a break from politics and talk about their pop culture obsessions.

1. If there were a television channel that only showed one movie over and over, what movie should it be?

I need to laugh so I'd want it to be a comedy. Probably Cactus Flower, a wonderful movie starring Walter Mathau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn from the '60's. My friends Craig and Jane discovered this movie in the mid ‘80’s and I still have their copy.

2. What’s one of your favorite movie quotes?

It’s from Rocky VI, when Rocky teaches his son about life:

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you're hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward-how much you can take and keep moving forward"

3. In A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell is strapped in with his eyes propped open and forced to watch images until he was "cured." If you could give President Obama, the "Clockwork Orange treatment," what movie would you make him watch?

I’d want the President to watch the movie To End All Wars made by my friend Jack Hafer and see the nobility of the American soldier who returns hatred and torture with kindness and forgiveness in a Japanese concentration camp. I don't buy the idea that he hates his country but having read his autobiography I think he has consumed far too much literature and been far too influenced by thinkers who think that America's influence on the world has been primarily negative. My experiences and reading tell me something entirely different. On more than one occasion as a kid growing up in Japan I was thanked by drunk Japanese men on the trains for the American occupation and the way that General MacArthur treated them. With a few exceptions, America has been a blessing to the world. The thing I’m ashamed of is most of the pop culture we export. We can do better.

4. What pop culture souvenir do you own that people would be surprised to learn that you cherish?

A “Welcome Back Kotter” lunchbox that was pretty cool in 1977

5. What's your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?

“Cold Case.” It’s a brilliant show. I love the ‘80’s music, the flashbacks that show the person years earlier and the way the victim shows up to acknowledge the detectives when the case is solved. So artistic

6. Which movie, television or rock star would cause you to lose your ability to speak if you ever met?

I’ve met or worked with all of them except for Bob Dylan. I wanted him on The Passion of The Christ soundtrack I produced and he agreed and was going to come into Mel's office to watch the film. We were all set for a six o'clock screening and I got a call at 3pm from his rep asking who would be there so I told him there would be five of us-Mel, Bob, Steve the producer, my wife and me. At 4pm I got another call asking if it was OK if Bob didn't talk to anyone. I said sure. At 5:30 I was halfway there when I got the final call that he wouldn't be coming. In spite of that he was still willing to give me “Rock of Ages” which is the song he said he’d like to hear just before he dies, for the soundtrack, but our label said no, so I had the slightly awkward task of turning him down. I hope our paths will cross someday, but it hasn’t happened yet. His music moves me.

7. What was the first rock concert you ever attended and where did you sit and who went with you?

I went with my family to hear Andrae Crouch when I was ten on a round stage surrounded on all sides by fans and I can picture exactly where I was sitting. I'd say that Andrae and Billy Joel are the greatest singer/songwriters of our generation but because he only sang Gospel Andrae never broke through into mainstream success. I once asked him why he never sang about girls and he said "how do you know some of those songs weren't about women?" Working with people I admired as a kid has been one of the best things about my work. When I needed songs for my new movie Doonby, Andrae and another childhood hero B.J. Thomas were the first artists I called up.

8. Many have said that Washington D.C. is like Hollywood for ugly people. How do you think DC is like Hollywood? How is it different?

Hollywood's greatest sin isn't sex or drugs but rather pride: the temptation to take credit for things one hasn’t done-I assume the same could be said of Washington. I call it the Ringo Starr Syndrome. A great project will happen in Hollywood and there will be a thousand people who try to take credit for its success and promise investors that they can do it again. But if they weren’t really responsible for the initial success they of course can’t repeat it. That’s the test. But by then it’s too late. It’s sort of like if Ringo Starr had come forward after the Beatles success and gotten money to make a solo album by promising that he was the catalyst behind the Beatles music. But he wouldn’t be able to write and record a Yesterday or a Help. Only when they did their solo albums did we figure out who contributed what to the overall success of the band. Washington’s version of that is what Kennedy said: Success has a million fathers and failure is an orphan.

9. What do you remember most about going to the movies as a kid? How has that experience changed for the better or worse for your kids?

My parents were pretty strict so we weren't allowed to watch a lot of movies but I remember one brother snuck me off to see The Champ when I was 8 years old and another took me to E.T. later. But I’m really glad for that strict upbringing because it taught me to think before I consumed media. I talk to my kids more about it and tell them the reasons why I want them watching things that will influence them toward a healthy life and not a destructive one. We’ll read reviews online and then decide together whether they should see a movie. Attending a movie is like voting. When you put down your money you’re telling us in Hollywood “make more of these please” and you’re telling the star of that movie: “I like you and want to fund your lifestyle.” That should give all of us pause.

10. What’s the coolest thing you’ve been able to do because of your role in the political arena?

Producing the Reagan movie has given me the chance to meet a lot of his aides over the past year and that's been fascinating. I've spent time with George Shultz, Ed Meese, Peter Hanaford, Judge Clark, Dana Rohrabacher, Gary Bauer, Peter Robinson and many others and it's been a fascinating experience.

11. What question do you wish reporters would ask you? What’s your answer to that question?

"What advice do you give your kids about life?"

"Love God with all of your heart and do whatever you want." If they get the first part of that sentence right, they’ll get the second part right as well.

12. Tell me about the moment you decided to become more vocal about your political beliefs.

I've always been pretty vocal about what I believe. I wrote my first letter to the editor when I was 9, called in to my first talk radio show when I was 10, and got my first column published when I was 13 so I’ve always been pretty opinionated. I’m one of the original contributors to the Huffington Post and have been a regular contributor to Foxnews.com so my beliefs are out there. I suppose my greatest conceit is that I tend to think that wherever I am on an issue is the center and that those to my left and right are the extremists. On my Facebook page under political beliefs it says "Anti-Stupid." I mean that. I think that what is true tends to also be what works so in that sense I'm pragmatic. I believe there is order to the universe and that it’s governed by a Creator so if there is truth, then it's natural to think that when truthful things are implemented they also work. I detest political ideologies that cause people to keep doing things that manifestly don’t work and those that get human nature wrong. When you misunderstand human nature and build philosophies or political parties upon a foundation of wrong assumptions about it, disaster always results. I love our Founding Fathers because they had a very dim view of human nature and built institutions upon that dim view. I'm with them. When it comes to human nature we should prepare for the worst and be surprised by the best and build political institutions accordingly. The three branches of government with their checks and balances is the best example of this -- something dreamed up by people who fundamentally distrusted their fellow human beings and understood the depravity of the human heart.