Letter from James Keach
Director and Producer of Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me
Directing and producing GLEN CAMPBELL…I’LL BE ME was an experience that has not only changed my life as a filmmaker, but my personal journey as a man.
Glen, while facing his own mortality after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, taught me to live in the moment, to seek laughter, love, music, spiritual growth, and to cherish my family and celebrate life.
It was Glen’s choice to go public and perform onstage in a “Good Bye Tour” in his final years. He did this specifically because he wanted to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. With his incredible talent and great humor, he connected vibrantly with millions of people from the stage. Even as he exposed his illness, they rooted for him, they loved him, and then they wanted to help him DO SOMETHING about that illness. This is the reason I want to help spearhead the I’ll Be Me Alzheimer’s Fund.
Filming the Campbell family for the past three years was not something I intended to do! I had recently made a film about another music legend, Johnny Cash called Walk the Line. I did not want to make another biopic of a Great American Musician, and, honestly, I was afraid to make a movie about a man with Alzheimer’s. The subject was depressing and daunting.
It was in the summer of 2011 that Julian Raymond asked me and my partner, Trevor Albert to meet the legendary Glen Campbell and his family. Working at Warner Bros., Julian had produced the last two Glen Campbell albums, Meet Glen Campbell and the soon to be released Ghost on the Canvas. Julian told me they would soon announce that Glen had Alzheimer’s, and that they were about to go on a short Good Bye Tour. He shared with me that Glen was increasingly showing signs of the disease, and that he hoped Glen’s amazing story and musicianship would be recorded before it was too late. Julian asked us to film the family tour, which was meant to last for about five weeks.
In spite of our reluctance, Trevor and I decided to watch every movie we could about Alzheimer’s disease. Separately, we both came to the same conclusion: we didn’t feel the proposed movie could reach a wide audience. There was no hope, no cure, and no upside in the way these stories we watched were told on film. But out of respect, we agree to meet the Campbell family anyway.
Then everything changed. My world changed. And I believe the same thing will happen to each person when they see our film. Glen, his wife Kim, and their children Cal, Shannon and Ashley brought humanity to the disease and the patient and the unbelievably heroic role of all caregivers. This family, we discovered, were exceptional human beings. Glen was honest, funny, charming, humble, and devout. He knew what he was up against and where the disease would ultimately take him. He wanted us to show the world his last act - and the gnarly truth of Alzheimer's disease. The family supported him and wanted to help him enjoy every moment he had left. Once we met them, our decision was an instant ‘yes.’
The tour brought us to 151 venues. We worked on the film for nearly three years. Glen was gracious and loving to everyone he met and he was not afraid to talk about his Alzheimer's. He would thank every fan for coming to see him. Over and over I heard him say – and mean – “God Bless You.” Glen felt God had blessed him to be able to do one last tour, with his family by his side, even in his altered state with ‘part-timers.’ Kim, Cal, Shannon and Ashley consistently modeled what real caregiving is about, and exemplified what it means to love unconditionally.
Reaction to the film has been remarkable and inspiring. It has taken me from being a reluctant filmmaker to being an advocate for changing the course of this dreadful disease, and it is my life’s mission now to do so. That is why I am working with a lot of dedicated people to establish the I’ll Be Me Alzheimer’s Fund, which will develop programs to restore the spirit of caregivers, fund research for a cure, and raise awareness. I hope you will be one of them. Glen would be so proud to know his fans are here to support him – and to grant him his wish to help those 44 million people and their families worldwide who are suffering from Alzheimer’s.
PLEASE join us in establishing the I’ll Be Me Alzheimer’s Fund by making a donation.