It seems like only yesterday he was just the boy up the street.
It is the first time I every truly cared who won anything at The Oscars. It’s also the first time I ever personally knew someone who was nominated.
Tom and I grew up on the same street in the Rochester, NY suburb Brighton. He was more my brother’s friend than mine, but we often circulated in the same street games. Even in high school I recall him being into filmmaking. My sharpest memory of him was his parody imitation of Carl Sagan infamous mantra “Billions and billions””, with “Billions and billions of Carl Sagans…”
It is something to see someone you know suddenly catapulted into international fame. I know many people who have risen to heights of their industry, and even some who have gone on to high success in entertainment. Yet by some luck a person you know is hired for a job, does it well, and that project catches a wave of attention and suddenly his life changes. And you know them.
How does that change your life?
For me, in only one way—it gives me hope. It shows it can happen to anyone, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
It just goes to show you that every major star, every major political, every leader, CEO, supermodel, NFL quarterback and Grammy winner—every single one is just a person. A regular schmoe who tried hard, nabbed a job and caught a break. One audition different than you, one interview, one lucky throw.
It’s not just luck, but we celebrate these people like they are something extraordinary. In truth, they are just you, or me, in a job that they did well, getting a wave of the lucky stick. And they are just as sweaty-palmed, full of wonder and awash in a life changing amazement as any of us would be, while trying to fit in to what is merely a hive of others who felt the same way last year. In India, actors are considered literal gods and are revered with intensity that seems absurd from Western perspective, perched atop what seems a new level of the caste system born of celluloid.
And now my friend Tom Cross has entered a new caste of Hollywood, always to be amongst those thought to be special and elite, as if their existence was at another place than all others, a golden statue to be idolized and marveled. Well, at least for one year.
I once interviewed multi-Emmy Award winner Michael Park, who said he didn’t do his work for the trophies, he did for the work. The awards his colleagues received meant far more to him.
I have dreamt of winning an Academy Award my entire film career. And now my friend Tom Cross has done it himself. Maybe he’s just a regular guy, who got lucky and worked hard—making the most of an opportunity and being recognized for it. Maybe he really is someone exceptional. Maybe his palms were sweaty tonight. Yet I know I wanted him to win this Oscar more than I ever cared anyone else won. Because his win represents the idea that anyone can hold a golden idol.
Even the boy from up the street.
Congratulations Tom Cross on your Academy Award win. We couldn’t be happier for this Rochester boy