Peaceful Warrior — The film

Look within. You are just here briefly. If you do not get into the moment, you live your life in the future, the past, or the ‘I want.’ The difficulty is that our culture does not allow for this kind of thought.

Since Dan Millman’s classic best-seller, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, was first published in 1980, millions of readers have been inspired by the revelations Millman experienced in his spiritual training with gas-pump jockey/philosopher/teacher “Socrates.”

Now, after nearly two decades of navigating the feature film waters, Millman’s life-changing encounter with his mysterious mentor is a major Hollywood production, starring two-time Oscar™ nominee Nick Nolte as Socrates and Scott Mechlowicz as Millman.

The book that changed lives

“In my quest for illumination, for meaning in life, I read voluminously, many books, many couched in jargon,” explains Millman about how the book came about. “I thought there must be a simpler way to describe this philosophy, to remind people what we all know as ‘truths,’ but occasionally lose sight of.

“The book went through many drafts over 10 years. It’s based on my life as an Olympic hopeful in men’s gymnastics and a real guy I met at a gas station in Berkeley, Calif., that I called Socrates, on impulse.

“I was trying to let people know that wisdom is found everywhere. As the saying goes, ‘we have no friends, no enemies, only teachers.’ Who knows who or where that valuable teacher may be? It might even be some old guy in a gas station. That was the core, the base, to the universal truths I was trying to illuminate.

“The book is a semi-fictional spiritual memoir. While many things are factually true — I did go to Berkeley, I was a world trampoline champion and gymnast, I did shatter my right femur in a motorcycle accident and recovered to join my team and win the NCAA Gymnastics Championships — I also inserted some fiction to help the story, which is paramount.”

Leading man Nick Nolte had been affected by The Way of the Peaceful Warrior years before he took the role of Socrates. “I had known this book since the early 1980s,” he explains. “I had gone through the ‘60s, the peace movement, civil rights, but no one had written about spiritual discovery in a novel, in a readable form.

“It has been said for a thousand years, that peace and love are on the inside. Answers are on the inside. Our culture teaches that you cannot be happy until you succeed. That is ridiculous. There is no reason you cannot be at peace and happy now. Look within. You are just here briefly. If you do not get into the moment, you live your life in the future, the past, or the ‘I want.’ The difficulty is that our culture does not allow for this kind of thought. Remember, you’re born with everything you need. Rarely is this message put into a movie. But it is a gamble to wait your whole life to be happy in heaven. Be happy now. This is the universal theme we undertake in this film.”

When Mechlowicz read the script, he recalls, “It was very therapeutic. I really liked the idea of my character. He is so tragically ironic: physically strong, but vulnerable and weak inside. There’s an immense struggle going on; he is constantly torn.

“Then Socrates barrages him with tasks meant to open his eyes. Partway through the film, you see Dan move to the dark side, and there is a moment when he has to decide what he’s going to do. He is asking the same questions we all have, searching for who we are.”

Millman sees his book as a vehicle that helps people reconnect. There are those who would say that humanity is in a process of The Great Reconnection. If that is the case, Peaceful Warrior is now poised to contribute to this massive awakening, right alongside the classic book that inspired it.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 3, June/July 2006.

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