If you were to apply to the life of filmmaker and comedian Nicholas Anthony the Jungian notion that each of us is an archetype, along with the Campbellian theory that each and every archetypical hero must embark on a twelve-step journey, then Nicholas Anthony would be a hero on Step 6 of his journey toward a life rife with meaning and stuffed to the brim with grails of Hollywood money.
Why a heroic journey?
Because Nicholas Anthony has been so bestowed.
Why only Step 6?
Because Nicholas Anthony has yet to be sufficiently challenged by any one vocation.
With each career choice, Nicholas Anthony has found success so readily, that he has yet to experience the dangers and scars that begin with Step 7 – The Innermost Cave.
Or so it would appear after witnessing his talent close-up and enjoying a one-on-one interview.
Step 1 – Ordinary World
Nicholas Anthony grew up in Elk River, Minnesota where he was supported, financially and emotionally, by his mother, a bartender-turned-prison guard-turned-baker, and his adoptive stepfather, a trucker.
Sure, his family is interesting. His mother once presided over alleged 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui at the local jail-cum-federal holding pen in Elk River, MN, where local and federal perps of various decorations have hobnobbed on certain occasions. On one such occasion, a transferred prisoner used a torn-off handicapped rail to beat to death his local misdemeanor roomie.
And Anthony’s father moved on his truck bed the largest single piece of limestone (or was it steel or concrete because trucker tales are like fish tales?) which was put in place as part of the “Endless Bridge” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
Anthony’s colorful familial support and his own innate curiosity led him at an early age to become involved in magic – not in a peripheral or pedestrian way, but whole-heartedly and without question. By 14 he was a professional. By 16 he was the top junior close-up magician in the world.
Anthony could have remained in the magic world. He could have maintained a successful career, but that would have led to a complacency that is neither befitting of Anthony nor present as one of the twelve steps of the journey of the hero.
And, importantly, there was no particular niche in the magic world that Anthony felt he had left to uniquely fill.
Step 2 – Call to Adventure
Seeking greater challenge and wanting to fill an apparent void – not just within his own vast intellectual quarry, but also in the field of storytelling. Who would convey the legacies of and/or elaborate on the sensibilities of cinema giants like Kurosawa, Kubrick, Eastwood and Fincher?
Anthony obtained a catalog for the film school at MCTC.
Step 3 – Refusal of the Call
As Anthony held the catalog in his hand and stared with taunt at the trash can, he inquired of himself, “Am I going to do this, or am I going to toss it and never look back?”
Since his aunt and uncle, both of whom he refers to as “cool,” attended MCTC, and since he had heard so much about the teachers in the screenwriting program, he decided to brave the chance.
With regard to stand-up comedy, he coveted its unparalleled glory every time he did magic but always thought he’d never have the balls.
Until he studied stand-up comedy close-up and in the flesh.
He went to every open mic at the Acme for six months to observe the routines of those who had come before.
And he wrote jokes for six months more.
After watching a fellow magician perform stand-up, he said to himself, “I too can do this” and decided he was ready – or at least ready enough.
The first time he performed, things went great. The next thirty times were more or less awful.
Following one particularly horrid occasion at Knuckleheads at the Mall of America, where Anthony admits he “ate it,” Anthony showed up for the second set at the Brave New Workshop and promised himself in the mirror, “If I don’t get laughs, I’m done.”
Well, lucky for us, he got laughs.
Upon getting off the stage, he made another promise: “I’ll do this 100 more times.”
And inside those 100 times, he made yet another promise – to give the career of comedy five whole years.
This push and pull within the realm of comedy might have been the rehearsal for a greater ordeal.
Once he completed film school and won his first comedy contest in Vegas at the age of 22, he somehow, paradoxically, arrived at a mighty questioning of the prudence of his path.
For a host of reasons, including perhaps Anthony’s feeling isolated among a general population so comfortable with banality, Anthony experienced a bout of depression. Who am I? Are there others out there like me? What do I have to offer? Why did I choose this particular path? Should I continue?
Step 4 – Meeting with the Mentor
Anthony sought the services of a counselor who functioned as a figurative film editor, helping him adjust his own perspective, so he could see his life from a different angle – to show him, no doubt, that his talents are rich and varied and come in such a unique combination that there is nowhere to go but up – and up and up. Someone had to let Anthony know that his gifts are uber rare. No one else possesses his peculiar brand of magician/filmmaker/comedian/workhorse/sage. He is clearly the magic he spent so many years simulating.
Yet, he is not totally alone. Each of us must take on the identity of our archetypical inheritance.
In addition to seeking a third eye from which to see his life, Anthony relied on the brilliant teachings of MCTC professor Hafed Bouassida who would forever affect his vision. Boussaida wouldn’t let his screenwriting students write dialogue for the first two years or use adverbs in the narrative ever. It was under the unforgettable guidance of Bouassida wherein Anthony recognized the potential for growth and saw a future for himself if he were to apply himself even more fully.
Also, Anthony found renewed inspiration in the studied comedic approaches of George Carlin, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock and, of course, in the existence of NBC’s Last Comic Standing on which Anthony was a formidable contestant twice.
Nicholas Anthony’s renewed creative inspiration combined with the confidence of a rocketing comedic career and a significant film festival win led Anthony to believe that he might have at least some of the ingredients to make it – to become what he was dreamed by Jung to be.
Anthony took a faithful leap toward the one place where filmmaking and comedy deftly knit together and where there might be other individuals – might be – with similar world-class talents in close-to-the-same measure – so he could remain all the more challenged. These are my words, not his! Anthony is humble and consistently refers to himself as his one harshest critic.
Anthony took the plunge that would lead to the “purpose, meaning and expression” he has so consistently sought.
Step 5 – Crossing of the Threshold
With reinvigorated vision and vim, Nicholas Anthony set out to make it big in the land I once considered to be “The Belly of the Beast” and which for many is “The Point of No Return.”
Anthony moved to Los Angeles.
Step 6 – Tests, Allies and Enemies
It is here, in LA, where Anthony has entered into the splay of talent managers, agents, producers, spec scripts, pitch meetings, and friendships, some of which will prove to have invisible strings attached. Though Anthony appears undaunted!
It is here, in LA, where Anthony has acquired more mentors, including Randall Wallace, the writer of Braveheart, Pearl Harbor and We Were Soldiers, who taught him to forget all he has learned and to treat each occurrence as new.
And it is here, in LA, where Anthony has further cultivated his work ethic – an ethic demonstrated early on when he took that first magic kit home – he spent hours a day not just getting it, but mastering it – and recently, when he wrote a spec sitcom script – he read every single script, watched all accompanying episodes, analyzed the patterns, wrote his own stellar version and had it read by several execs – all in less than three weeks.
Steps 7 and 8 – Approach to the Innermost Cave and The Supreme Ordeal
It is the Approach to the Innermost Cave and subsequent descent into The Supreme Ordeal, where Nicholas Anthony must next traverse. I hope it’s a quick sojourn that leaves him virtually without scar, but I know from my own limited life experience and Bible stories and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and, of course, George Lucas’ Star Wars that in order for the resurrection to be meaningful, it must occur after tremendous loss. The cave – or cross or Death Star – must consume him, and Nicholas Anthony must, despite everything, Houdini his way out.
Since, little has so far penetrated Nicholas Anthony’s Moxie:
> Facing the blank page – not scary for Nick
> Hollywood meetings – not scary for Nick
> Negotiating with others – not scary for Nick
> Standing before a crowd of ten or a hundred or a thousand – not scary for Nick
> Being under-challenged – a little scary for Nick
I worry about his advance into the utmost darkest realm. How hard will he take it? Will he recognize that such struggle is both inevitable and temporary? Being a filmmaker, he must. Being a comedian he’ll no doubt find it thrilling. Being a human, he’ll likely find it terrifying. But being a hero, he’ll of course get through it.
Steps 9-11 – Reward, The Road Back and Resurrection
I have enormous hope for Nicholas Anthony’s safe return from the onyx beyond. If anyone can come out alive, it is him.
Nicholas Anthony’s charm and confidence are in such abundance– yet are not greater than his talent or intelligence or work habits – that it is almost impossible to stymie him.
His Reward will be fame, money, romance, respect and an even greater breadth of possibility.
The Road Back will surely include a chase scene – quite possibly one of an amorous hue. Imagine Blake Lively, Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Helen Mirren and the entire cast of Glee all in doughty pursuit.
Because who is not drawn to a hero?
And if his previous rise from the ash of melancholy functions as foreshadowing, his ultimate Resurrection (even from the grip of Jolie) is inevitable.
Step 12 – Return with the Elixir
I await Nicholas Anthony’s arrival at Step 12 – his return to Minnesota, either in person or in spirit, with the elixir of wisdom and legacy of laughs and canon of films and trove of whatever other bountiful elixir he acquires.
I look forward to the time when he shares with us all, his admiring minions, his particular brand of stories – if not via interview then via film or whatever other exacting medium he dares take on.
And in the meantime, I hope to enjoy more of his unsurpassed energy and talent on both stage and screen.
While he might officially fit a Jungian archetype, he is definitely one of a kind.
For more information on the steps of the Hero’s Journey, visit thewritersjourney.com.
For info about Nicholas Anthony, go to nicholasanthony.com or check out his blog.
To find out what archetype you are, or to see where on the hero’s journey continuum your current life falls, or to know if you are more a fit for the Sherburne County jail, click here.