In Big Fish, Will Bloom describes his father as "a stranger I know very well." In an odd way, it's the same for me and the writer of the movie (and now the musical), John August. I'd actually met John once before I decided to travel to the opening night of "Big Fish The Musical" on Broadway in Chicago. I had been following him on Twitter for a few years before I moved to L.A. because when you want to write movies, you want to hear what other people who write movies have to say. I once even had a minor freak-out when I noticed he retweeted something I posted about his writing advice on Twitter. (I tried to find it for you, but Twitter's search capabilities are severely lacking.)
So anyway. When he mentioned that he was looking to unload some magazines, I jumped at the chance to take them off his hands, just because I thought it'd be cool to have something that once belonged to someone famous. (Look at his IMDb page; he's a rock star in my world.)
I was more than a little surprised when he told me to pick them up at his house. So one morning, I did just that. I pulled up to this house that looked oddly familiar and knocked on the door. His assistant, Matt, I believe, met me at the door with the magazines. He handed them to me and I figured that would be it.
Not the experience I hoped for, but essentially the one I expected.
Then John came down the stairs just to say hi to me. I'm pretty sure he had been working out, but he stopped to say hi. I told him that I recognized his house, and as I talked, I realized it was from one of his movies, The Nines. He had shot it there. We talked about that for a moment, then I took my (his) magazines and I left. End of story. Nothing outlandish, but still incredibly cool, if you ask me.
Fast forward a few years. Still following him on Twitter. Reading his blog regularly. Now I've started listening to his podcast. I've listened to nearly 60 episodes in about as many days. It's easy when you have a long commute every day.
And then, this last week, like I mentioned before, I went to Chicago and experienced the world premiere of "Big Fish The Musical." He offered a discount on tickets to people who read his blog and listen to his podcast, so I jumped at the opportunity, even though I hate driving in, around, or anywhere near Chicago. He once again impressed me with his graciousness by taking time right before the show to stop and talk to me and all of the other people who used the discount on tickets he gave us. A really, genuinely nice thing to do. He and I talked about how we had met before. Still nothing outlandish. Still incredibly cool.
I wish I could go into an in-depth review of the Broadway show, but I don't have the experience for those kinds of things. My friend who went along, and had never seen the movie, commented afterwards that she didn't often see a Broadway show where the story outshone the music, and I think I'd have to agree. It could have been my lack of familiarity with the music (when I saw Wicked, I already had the soundtrack memorized), but I was more caught up in the story than swept away by the songs. And just like with the movie, I choked up at the end.
The story ends with a gathering of friends. Edward, the father in Big Fish, has amassed many in his life, and they gather together for him. John, through his blog, podcast, and even his Twitter account, seems to be collecting a similar group of people. Strangers that know him well.
And like Will starts to learn of his father, I can't help but notice that his accomplishments are not just the stories he tells. They're the cheap tickets to an otherwise out-of-budget show. They're the breaks from workouts just to say hi. They're the people he helps.