Former Superior teacher, principal gains perspective in HollywoodThe teacher has become a student.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The teacher has become a student.
For Don Scribner, a former Superior teacher and principal, he’s learned his hard work can end up on the cutting room floor. He’s learned no one may ever see his best work because — for whatever reason — that film may never see the light of the screen.
And he’s learned how to tap many talents — writing, playing guitar and singing, doing voice overs — in addition to acting to pay the bills.
“This trip is the beginning of the sequel to my book, which is not out yet,” Scribner said.
His first novel “Who Killed Love” is expected to be released later this year.
“It’s something we’re all familiar with,” said the teacher who shared his talent for education with students at Patzau and Ericsson elementary schools, and Central Junior High starting in the early 1970s. These days Scribner is hanging his hat in Los Angeles to pursue his dream of a career in the arts, most notably performing on stage, in film and television.
He has performed in a variety of roles in 15 films, including playing Lou, the muscle for Alec Baldwin who roughed up William H. Macy and Maria Bello’s characters in the 2003 film “The Cooler” and a supporting role in the 2009 film “Crossing Over” starring Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd. Scribner played Al the bartender in the film about immigration.
That film taught him a lot, Scribner said. While he had several lines in the film, which originally paired Sean Penn with Ford, Penn’s character was cut from the film at his request, which reduced Scribner’s role as Al to a single phrase: “Last Call” as ICE Special Agent Hamid Baraheri, played by Cliff Curtis, sets his empty drink on the bar.
More recently, he starred in “Alien Armageddon,” released in 2011.
“The film is what it is, but the cover is cool,” Scribner said.
He also co-starred in the yet-to-be released film, shot as “Siskiyou County.” The film, which could be released later this fall as “Willow Creek,” was picked up by Lions Gate Studio, the studio behind “The Cooler,” the teacher turned actor said.
Originally named for the northern California county with the most reported sightings of Bigfoot, the film begins with a documentary filmmaker who goes there to investigate the alleged sightings.
“You won’t like me,” Scribner said of the marijuana farming stranger he plays in the film, a character he describes as cruel and sadistic.
“He’s just a bad, bad, bad man, with barely any redeeming quality except for revenge,” Scribner said.
If it’s released at all, Scribner said of the film.
The teacher turned actor said another lesson he’s learned is that sometimes a film won’t be released at all.
“I’ve had six films that have never been released,” Scribner said. “Some of my best work’s just never been released for varied reasons.”
Still, he keeps plugging away at a dream his mother encouraged.
He also did a television show, “Crash” with Dennis Hopper.
“It was rather traumatic, actually, because my biggest fan in life was my mother,” Scribner said. She was the one who told him he was “wasting his life” despite a good career in education. She was the one who encouraged him to make the move to Hollywood.
“I was cast in ‘Crash’ as this deranged homeless man,” Scribner said. “I was going to call my mother to tell her I got this beautiful, beautiful gig.”
That was a Friday.
On Saturday, when he was walking to his phone to make the call, his brother called to tell him that their mother fell down the stairs and was dead.
While he was going to cancel his appearance in the series that ran two years in 2008 and 2009 — and ended before Hopper’s death in May 2010 at age 74 — Scribner said his family insisted he carry through and held the funeral so he could perform in the television show.
“Everything helps to pay the bills, whether it comes from writing or music or film or television — it all pays the bills.” Scribner said. “Everything is networking.”
After all, it was a bartender at the country bar he goes to that got him a shot in “Siskiyou County.”
The Ashland native who spent 14 years educating Superior’s youth — including one year as the principal of the former Patzau School — is back in the Northland, visiting friends, family and students from his past as well as researching his next book.
Scribner said at the end of “Who Killed Love” his central character, Harlan Saltz, was coming back to Wisconsin to help a friend and refresh himself.
The second book will pick up where the first leaves off, he said.
“I write from the first person,” Scribner said. “My lead is me, something I can relate to, and I embellish a little bit to make myself feel a little better.”
For Scribner, Wisconsin remains an oasis from the fast-paced life of the city he now calls home — Los Angeles.
“I come back to an oasis of friendship and love,” Scribner said, before meeting with a former student for a round of golf he was certain he would lose. “It’s refreshing. Here you have the time to recognize it. In L.A. — I love L.A. — but it’s very fast paced all the time. Even sitting in one’s yard is not quite the same as having a bonfire in your brother’s yard and watching the moon rise over the trees.”