Multi-Talented McCarthy Wins Oscar

While the focus of this Oscar season has been on the race controversy and who got snubbed, we couldn’t be more excited for Tom McCarthy who recently won a screenwriting Oscar for Spotlight. Not only did he write the original screenplay but he also directed the movie. Spotligh also won the Oscar for the most coveted category of the evening, Best Picture.  We love the fact that McCarthy is a multi-talented writer, actor and director, which is very rare in the industry. Known for writing about human nature and having characters that are not entirely good or bad, his works include Meet the Parents, Up, Win Win, The Visitor, Million Dollar Arm and Spotlight. Risen sat down with him three years ago and talked about morality, motives and how he incorporates spirituality and faith into his films.

 “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:20-21

Each person has a moral code that they live by. For some it is based on religion and for others it is based on their culture or upbringing. We asked McCarthy about his decision to display morality through his characters and this is what he shared.

“Maybe it’s a morality, or at least it’s a code to live by. In Win Win, the main character Mike (the father, lawyer and wrestling coach) struggles with his morality and ethics, and he literally grapples with his sense of responsibility to his family, community and society. Kyle’s character (the troubled high school runaway) has a specific code that he lives by. He’s not a perfect kid by any means. He has some bad habits, he’s done some bad things, he’s made some mistakes and he comes from a tough background. Because of all that, he’s forced to live by this code. He refuses to take money, even though he doesn’t have a lot. He doesn’t expect to be given anything. If he’s going to earn a place on the wrestling team he’s going to EARN it – he’s going to wrestle off for it. That’s his code. For Mike, though, here is a seemingly decent guy who loves his family, has a good job, is passionate about his work, is a church-going guy, is a member of the community, volunteers as a wrestling coach – all of these seemingly great things – but he makes a really bad choice in a tight situation. To me, that was the most compelling angle I had on the movie.”

“To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
Proverbs 16:1-3

Risen asked McCarthy why his characters often have mixed motives and we found what he shared to be intriguing.

“I think we all have mixed motives. Motives are never completely pure, whether we understand that or not. There is always another level operating. There may have been those few people in the history of time who managed to be truly pure in their motive and intention, but for most of us regular folk, it’s a struggle.” 

Because the heart of Risen is to go deeper, we asked McCarthy to share what the faith element behind his movies are.

“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 5:6-7

“A lot of times I just try to tap into the faith and/or the spirituality of the story. So every movie isn’t necessarily a direct reflection of my own beliefs, although at some level there are motives we don’t understand. With Win Win, one of the opening images has a glass angel falling. It starts from there and carries. There are tattoos on Kyle’s shoulder blades that look a little bit like wings. His hair is yellow. The last wrestling scene, which is a man literally wrestling with his own morality and ethics, brings to mind that great Rembrandt painting where Jacob wrestles with the angel. It portrays this idea where a man is forced to grapple with what’s in front of him. So this is one of those movies where I would have to own up to that faith question.”

Risen Reflections

What moral code are you living by? Our faith should serve as the foundation for our actions. We don’t have to be perfect, but we should strive to be a reflection of Christ. Not sure what you believe? It is okay to ask questions! Ask a pastor or trusted friend some of those hard questions. We also love Evidence That Demands a Verdict, More Than a Carpenter, Letters from a Skeptic and Case for Christ.

What are your motives? Whether your decisions or plans are small or large, commit them to God. Ask Him to help purify your motives. Even if something starts out of selfish ambition, pray and ask God to repurpose your plans for His glory. As we start our day with God through prayer and reading the Bible, we are able to establish a foundation for our motives. Not sure what to do? Turn to Him!

How do you incorporate your faith into what you do? You may not be acting, screenwriting or making films, but God gives us opportunities daily to share our faith through our work, actions and conversations. Sometimes God wants us to be direct, other times, it will be through imagery, illustration or stories. It is okay to be nervous. Remember that you are not alone. God gave us the Holy Spirit to encourage and empower us. Pray and ask God for guidance.

To read our entire interview with Oscar winner Tom McCarthy click here.