Writer, director Antwone Fisher speaks to Malibu Pepperdine students

The man, most known for his story depicted in the autobiographical movie title in his name, appeared at Pepperdine University in recognition of Black History Month.

By McKenzie Jackson / Special to The Malibu Times

One student said he was inspired, another said she was amazed and groups of other Pepperdine University students clamored to have author, screenwriter and film director Antwone Fisher to pose for a picture with them.

Fisher, known famously for turning his adversity-filled true life story into the successful autobiographical movie, “Antwone Fisher,” said he just wants to inspire movie viewers.

“We all go through things in life,” he said. “I’ve been blessed through my struggles. If I didn’t have all the difficulties in my life I wouldn’t be as interesting I suppose.”

Fisher met with and answered questions from a group of more than two-dozen Pepperdine students on Tuesday this week after a screening of “Antwone Fisher” in Pepperdine’s Elkins Auditorium.

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The screening was held as part of the university’s celebration of Black History Month, which takes place in February.

Craig Detweiler, associate professor of communication at Pepperdine film and director of the school’s Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture, said he felt the screening of the 2002 movie was appropriate in honor of Black History Month.

“Antwone Fisher, he is the real deal,” said Detweiler, who is a personal friend of Fisher. “The film and the man, they both match up. I couldn’t think of anything better to bring to Pepperdine and Malibu.”

The Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture co-sponsored the screening of the 120-minute film with Pepperdine’s Intercultural Affairs Office.

The critically acclaimed movie tells the story of Fisher as a young sailor in the U.S. Navy, who was prone to violent outbursts and is sent to a naval psychiatrist for help. Refusing at first to open up, Fisher eventually breaks down and reveals a horrific childhood that featured being a foster child, homelessness and falling victim to sexual abuse.

Through the guidance of his doctor, Fisher faces his painful past and begins a quest to find the family he never knew.

Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington stars in and directed the movie.

After its release eight years ago, the film was the receipt of 15 awards including the 2003 International Press Academy’s Satellite Special Achievement Award, the Political Film Society’s 2003 Exposé Award, the 2003 Producers Guild of America Stanley Kramer Award, two 2003 Image Awards and three 2003 Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards.

Fisher, a resident of the Los Angeles area, said he never expected the film to be that successful.

“The first time I saw it, I saw it alone,” he said. “It was overwhelming for me. It looked a little different because they had rearranged some of the scenes, but it was really overwhelming for me in thinking about how far I had come from my beginnings and to be now sitting at Fox Studios lot watching a film I had written and produced.”

During the question and answer portion of the screening, Fisher answered questions posed by students, Detweiler and Don Lawrence, the director of the Intercultural Affairs Office.

They asked about his writing process, what it was like working with Washington, what role his spiritual faith has played in his life and the promotion of the movie.

Fisher revealed he wrote 41 drafts of “Antwone Fisher” before Fox Studios purchased the screenplay.

“They ended up using the first draft that I wrote,” he said.

Fisher has penned scripts for 16 movies including the 2006 film “ATL,” the short film “My Summer Friend” and the forthcoming “Training Day 2.” He is also the author of the New York Times best-selling novel, “Finding Fish” and in April his newest book, “A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie and Other Lessons for Succeeding in Life,” will be released.

Fisher said he was honored to be asked to speak about his life and work during Black History Month.

“Usually it is people who pass away [who are honored],” he said, “then others look at their life and say there are some lessons there worthy of noting during this time of the year. To be alive during this time of the year, and to be able to participate in some of the functions and see how I’ve been blessed through my struggles and difficulties shows there is some value in going through some things.”

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