Lee Stanley: Salvation in Hollywood
By Cheryl Wilcox
The 700 Club
CBN.com- Filmmaker Lee Stanley’s documentary, The Grid Iron Gang, told the story of a juvenile prison camp’s Cinderella football season. Then Lee produced a box office hit with the same name, starring Hollywood actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (now credited as Dwayne Johnson).
LS: The movie did well. It was #1 at the box office, which always feels good, you know. And, because of Dwayne’s passion for the original documentary, he stayed to it. Eighty-five percent of the completed film is a direct lift, and I thank God for it.
Cut! That’s not a typical Hollywood turn of phrase. However, it’s Lee’s storyline, and the subject of his recent memoir, Faith in the Land of Make-Believe. In a brutally honest portrayal of his life and career in Hollywood, the five time Emmy winning filmmaker recounts his journey from self-absorbed actor to loving husband and father.
LS: Because of my sports background, I was given a lot of opportunities to double stars or actors. We were on location, and I sensed this one guy just eyeballing me. At the break, he came over to me, and he said, “Uh, can you act?” And I said, “I can lie just as good as the next guy.” He turned out to be the head of new talent at MGM studios. I started running with some stunt guys when I first got in the motion picture business. They were racers, and I thought, “This looks like fun!”, so that’s how I started with it. And I loved it! Great high. Then, I wanted to do a documentary on the biggest races in the world, these desert races I’m involved in, and that was my first project. And I loved it! Then I decided that’s what I want to do. That’s where I get excited -- behind the camera. Everybody thought I had it going because I had a little tiny film company. I enjoyed life. I enjoyed racing. I enjoyed diving, but it was like that Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?”
Lee racked up two failed marriages, and he was estranged from both his children.
LS: The frustration was I didn’t know how to make my life work. And I was scared to death someone would find out. So I put up a front like I had it all together, like everything was just fine. I am sure the womanizing part had a lot to do with that.
SR: What about that part? That was obviously a big, big part of your life; and two failed marriages – you couldn’t relationally make things work.
LS: “With anybody.”
So, Lee stuck to what he was good at, filmmaking.
LS: I found a distributor that liked what I did, Dave Adams at Pyramid Films, and that turned my entire life around. He caught me off guard. They invited me to church, Church On The Way, Pastor Jack Hayford’s church. And, as I went through the doors, the Lord impressed upon me, we’ll put it that way, “Welcome home, Lee. We have a lot of things to do together.” And, I did the only macho thing I could do, I cried. It was tears of release. It wasn’t tears of pain. It was just – tears. They started pouring out of my eyes. I couldn’t wait for the service to be over because I hadn’t cried in years. You race motorcycles, you’re in Hollywood, you don’t cry. I couldn’t wait to get back. I snuck back the following Sunday. I didn’t tell anybody I was going, and I accepted Christ. All I knew when I got saved, I got filled, and I never knew I was empty. And, that was 34 years ago.
With Christ, Act II, if you will, Lee’s life and career has a completely different script. He met and married Linda shortly after becoming a Christian, and they will soon celebrate 35 years of marriage together. Filmmaking became a family passion, and the Emmy winning series, Desperate Passage, came out of a heart to help kids no one believed in.
LS: We had a plethora of letters and communication from kids themselves, not just kids in lockup, but kids that said, “You really encouraged me that I’m not a loser, and that there is hope in my life.”
Lee says learning to love his wife and to restore his relationships with his son, Shane, and his daughter, Quinn, from his previous marriages has been the biggest reward of his life. He says that God wrote that story.
LS: And then you read in Scriptures, “He will give you the secret desires of your heart.” He’s the only One that can do it. I look at that, and I think there is no life without Christ. He wants to shape your life so you can be used to His glory, which is the greatest fulfillment of your life.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.