Monday, May 4, 2015

R.I.P. Michael Blake (1945-2015)

Sometimes it takes only one film to make an impact. While Michael Blake may not be the most prolific or recognizable writer in pop culture, his brief resume features the Best Picture winner Dances with Wolves. Following the story of a man who learns to befriend and cooperate with Indians, it was a story of tolerance that would come to define Blake's career following the film. While his IMDb page is sparse, his achievements are very noteworthy and has contributed a lot to the literary world, most recently with the 2011 book "Into the Stars." 

While Blake had a career prior to "Dances With Wolves," directing the film Laughing Horse in 1986 and having a produced screenplay called Stacy's Knights in 1983, he remained a struggling writer for most of his career in the 70's and 80's. Upon publishing "Dances with Wolves," which wasn't a big success, his friend Kevin Costner encouraged him to have it made into a movie. Costner would go on to direct and star in it. The film eventually won seven Oscars and made the actor's directorial debut into a calling card for years to come.

Upon winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, Blake did something different. With a little briefing of how he would like to promote literacy, he invited the film's consultant to translate his speech as he gave it. The speech was a simple call and response style moment in which Blake encouraged literacy and for writers to follow their dreams. Seeing as he was a struggling writer prior to the film, his humble approach to the acceptance speech remains a noteworthy mark of endearment for him. 

While it remains interesting that he was prodded into having it made, this moment helped to shape his career to come. Beyond writing more stories and having several screenplays still in development at the time of his death, he used his influence to help various organizations including several based around Indian and educational interests. Beyond this, he has remained a very humble person. His friends have claimed that his writing is ahead of its time. Even then, being considered as the writer of a film that preached about peace and understanding is a noble thing to be remembered for. He died in Tucson, Arizona after a long battle with sickness. 

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