It was a train wreck. A total train wreck.
Nine words, simple and direct. The beginning of an epic. It is with those nine words that Dawn of Destiny, the first book in the Epic series, sets the stage for Scott Remington’s journey of faith and fury. But the words don’t belong to Scott. They belong to his first commanding officer.
Colonel Brent Lilan of Falcon Platoon is the first character introduced in Epic. It is only appropriate that he be the first character introduced in this “The Next Big Thing” casting series. For those wondering what this is about, you’ll want to check out my blog entry explaining the “what’s” and “why’s” of this unique little Epic event. For those already initiated, strap yourselves in. We’re landing in a hot zone.
Brent Lilan is the embodiment of a realist. Wifeless and childless, he’s known but one thing in his life: the chain of command. Following and issuing orders. Being all he can be at the cost of what most would consider “life.” A colonel at the Earth Defense Network (EDEN) base of Richmond, Virginia, he is the unfortunate heir of a tragic circumstance and a mission gone to hell. It is through that circumstance and that mission that Lilan becomes the new commanding officer for Scott Remington and his comrades as they fill the ranks of his decimated unit.
For as bluntly matter-of-fact as Lilan comes across, he’s a character dealing with deeply complex personal issues. He’s a man in his fifties still serving on the battlefield, reaching the point in his career when younger blood is being chosen for more critical operations. As capable as he knows he still is, he consistently finds himself being relegated more to a role of “rookie trainer” than front-line difference-maker. He’s given his life to the military, and he’s seeing that military slowly leave him behind. Without this career path—without war—what does he have? For as much as men fight to preserve peace, Lilan fights to hold on to the only purpose he’s ever known.
Lilan stared at the comm in his hand, then surveyed his room. His eyes, fully adjusted to the darkness, settled on his oak dresser. How many times had he climbed out of bed and opened those drawers to dress for the day? He’d built that dresser fifty-some-odd years ago, with his father. It had traveled with him to every house he’d owned. It was made strong—made to last. Things weren’t made like that anymore. People weren’t made like that.
Pressing his hand against his forehead, Lilan gritted his teeth. Rolling out of bed and onto his feet, he shook his head and lifted his comm again. He called up General Hutchin.
“You awake now?” Hutchin asked.
“Yeah,” Lilan answered. “What’s the op?”
The casting of Brent Lilan, to put it simply, was easy. Let’s be honest. All authors, be they great or small, cast their books in their minds. When you visualize scenes in your head—when you imagine how your words would look enacted on the silver screen—how can you not see certain people acting them out? There’s always “that someone” who you think would be perfect for certain roles. And I can honestly say, for the role of Colonel Lilan, that person has always been William Sadler. He was the first of any character in Epic that I ever cast in my head, before Dawn of Destiny ever became tangible in late 2006. I knew he’d be the first actor I’d approach for this “The Next Big Thing” journey.
“A military colonel in a sci-fi setting, eh? I think I’d be okay in a role like that.” – Sadler on playing Lilan
William’s film career spans 35 years and over a hundred roles, from the zany creepiness of the Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, to one of his best-known roles as Heywood in Shawshank Redemption, to more recent appearances on 666 Park Avenue and the impending Iron Man 3. The man stays busy, so I consider it an amazing privilege that he was so quick to respond to me in regards to The Next Big Thing to accept this hypothetical role.
There’s something that must be said for William. He is living proof that if you work hard, and if you do things the right way, you can find success. He’s a natural entertainer – but being a natural at something won’t get a person to the grocery store if they don’t start taking steps, let alone to any kind of decent future. You have to put forth effort. You have to earn your stripes. Reading William’s back-story puts into perspective just how arduous the road can be. Keep in mind, now, that arduous doesn’t mean “bad.” But just the same, it means there are a lot of steps in the journey. William started in a 60’s garage band. Then he MC-ed a variety show (with a banjo, which is just the coolest thing in the world). Then he did stand-up, then he pursued acting in college, then he moved up to shows on “off-off-Broadway,” as he put it. By the time he got his first actual film role, he had already been doing entertainment for most of his adult life.
Here’s what you can glean from that: you have to work. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a curmudgeon at age thirty-one, but it seems that all too often people expect to make it to the top immediately on pure talent and little to no effort. It’s that whole “entitlement generation” thing. It doesn’t apply to everyone, obviously, but just the same, I could come up with countless examples in just about every creative avenue from writing, to acting, to visual arts, where the general attitude is, “the reason I haven’t made it is because my genius hasn’t been recognized.” That’s wrong. The reason you haven’t made it – if that’s your attitude – is because you aren’t committed to making it. It goes beyond just pumping out material day after day. You have to look inside you and say, “what do I have to do to be better?” Are you willing to bust your tail for no gain except personal fulfillment? If the answer is no, you don’t want it enough. William wasn’t sitting back with a silver spoon living the life of luxury when he woke up one day and said, “I think I’ll try acting.” He committed to entertainment at a very young age, and he’s spent his life working incredibly hard to better his talents and advance his career. You need only look at his body of work to see how that’s paid off.
Work hard, folks. Whatever your profession. Don’t root around looking for shortcuts. Put your boots on the ground and get muddy. It can take you exceedingly far.
There are a lot of ways to keep up with William’s current projects. In addition to his website, he’s an active member of the Twittersphere and Facebook, where he promises to be your best friend EVER. And if you have an extra five hours, you can read over the massive amount of work he has listed on IMDb.
Thank you so much, Bill, for being a part of this. It may seem like a small thing, but for this small author and his series, it truly is a privilege. And if this small author ever gets big someday, have a phone handy. We’re goin’ to war!
Thus concludes the first entry of this The Next Big Thing casting endeavor! We’ll be picking up with a new character next week. To pass the time, break out your telescopes and look for that bright morning star. It might just be our next one.