Ken Wales went to be with the Lord
Ken Wales went to be with the Lord on August 21. The news brought back a flood of memories.
Sometime in 2004 I heard from my friend Sean Gaffney that Ken, who had produced the original Pink Panther films, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Christy, and many others, was interested in producing the rest of the Chariots of Fire story. I was working on Beyond the Chariots, my one-man play that tells that story, at the time, so I was very interested in auditioning for Eric Liddell in the film.
At the time I knew they were working on Amazing Grace, so I was shocked when Ken called me up. I told him about my play and hoped he could see a reading of it at a Christians in Theatre Arts gathering near him that year, hoping he'd think of me for Liddell. He shocked me again when he mentioned that they didn't have a script yet!
In 2006 I was back in LA, and I invited him to a performance. He saw it, and took the stage afterward to tell the audience how much he loved it. At a late dinner he invited me to work on the screenplay.
I invited him to teach at the MasterWorks Festival two different summers, and he always made an effort to meet with each student, to hear their dreams and encourage them. One of the reasons he was so enthusiastic about encouraging the next generation was that Walt Disney invited him to stay in his home when Ken was in high school. Walt wanted to hear from a young person, and Ken's principal recommended him. At the end of the week, Walt took him around Disneyland, which I believe was still in testing mode at the time. On the It's a Small World ride Walt asked Ken what he wanted to do in life. When Ken told him he wanted to make movies, Walt took out his personal checkbook and wrote out a check for Ken's tuition for five years at the University of Southern California film school.
At MasterWorks and Christians in Theatre Arts, Ken would stay up until the wee hours telling stories of his adventures in Hollywood with students. I remember being shocked once that he beat me to the classroom where he was teaching first thing in the morning after he'd kept many of us up past 2:00 a.m.!
Ken's greatest help with my career was probably when he recommended me for Alone Yet Not Alone, which he was producing. I landed a small role, but it connected me with so many wonderful people that I've worked with over the years.
Sadly, Ken got dementia before we were able to get our screenplay to market.
I got to visit Ken once after that. I made him weep as I reminded him of some of the stories he told me and thanked him for his great influence on my life and career. I'll always be glad I was able to spend that time with him.
Join me in praying for more mentors and producers like Ken to rise up and create films that point people to Christ.
Here's a great article on the MovieGuide website: