Matthew grew up in Mordor. Not the real Mordor, but when J.R.R. Tolkien was describing his darkest and most evil region of Middle Earth in the epic literary trilogy The Lord of the Rings, he was describing life in West Bromwich, West Midlands, England… Matthew Marsden’s hometown. Through hard work and sacrifice, Matthew could leave Mordor and make the brutal climb to the top of Hollywood Hill.
With an intense desire to make a living and find a way out of this environment, Matthew stumbled upon the entertainment industry. As a multi-talented young man, his hard work earned him opportunities that most people can only dream of. He modeled for two years before turning his attention to music and then recorded two Top 40 pop records as a musician and vocalist.
Matthew’s career in film and television is a case study of what it takes to become successful in Hollywood. Fame and success in this brutally demanding industry takes more than a good voice and a pretty face. Only hard work on your current project can land you a more prominent role in your next movie.
The Hollywood Hill is a steep climb
His looks and talent were impossible to miss. However, Matthew dreamed of an acting career. -a dream that was powerful and so clear that he let nothing get in his way. He even turned down a date from Madonna while pursuing his acting career.
He got his start in a small role in a miniseries. His talent was immediately recognizable, and this small role opened the door to a featured role on the iconic British soap opera Coronation Street.
It’s easy for a blue-collar worker to envy the lifestyle of stars on the silver screen. However, these megastars didn’t have leading roles dropped into their lap. Instead, they were selected from a vast talent pool of people trying to make it big in the entertainment industry. No one gets handed stardom; it typically comes after decades of sacrifice and hard work.
Don’t quite halfway from the top
I regularly remind people that I didn’t see one penny from Black Hawk Down’s book royalties or ticket sales. I’m just the guy on the ground. But I also don’t envy the talented actors and writers like Matthew who made big paychecks from their work. Blockbuster success only comes from months or years of dedication and sacrifice.
But Matthew was chasing a dream of making it to the top of the Hollywood Hill when he learned that he was missing half the script to life. In a home with nominal faith, Matthew was raised to put faith in God from a young age. However, people needed to explain exactly how to do that.
His worldview came crashing in around him when he learned that “blind truth is a lie.” His fundamental understanding of what it meant to believe in anything was challenged when he started reading about the logical foundation for the Christian faith.
In our conversation, Matthew describes feeling “betrayed by the lack of teaching” about the greatest act of love in history. No one adequately explained Christ’s sacrifice for Matthew when he attended church as a child. This evident lack of teaching was like getting left half way up Hollywood Hill without a map to make the rest of the journey.
The view from the top is worth it
Man will never endure a worse fate than spending a lifetime struggling and suffering to get to the top of a mountain, only to realize that he’s climbed the wrong mountain. That almost happened to Matthew…
…until a 1-word answer in a short conversation changed his life.
Frustrated and struggling to understand the basics of his beliefs, Matthew’s life changed when he asked an Army Ranger a simple question on the movie Black Hawk Down set. This simple question became the first domino, leading to all other dominos falling in his life. The short answer to this simple question transformed Matthew’s worldview, his quest to conquer the Hollywood Hill, and even where he would choose to spend the rest of his life.
When Matthew heard a modern US Army Ranger answer “Yes” to his simple question, “Would you die for me?” this response changed his life. It was the moment he realized that he didn’t value freedom like this Ranger Sergeant did. It forced him to recognize that he didn’t understand freedom like this warrior.
Like an earthquake shifting the ground beneath him, almost all that Matthew held dear was challenged by this 1-word answer. It was the moment that he realized he was sacrificing to get to the top of the wrong hill. This short conversation caused Matthew to surrender the rest of his life to pursuing truth and helping others do the same.
Have you done the hard work of deep soul-searching like Matthew? Are you confident that you’re spending your life climbing the right hill? If you’re unsure, I hope this interview will give you some things to consider.