The legacy of screenwriters usually boils down to a life’s list of screen credits. Sometimes it goes beyond that, to the impact one makes on others. Latter is the case with Stewart Stern, the Rebel Without A Cause scribe who died last week. Stephen Chbosky, the writer-director of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, and Christopher McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning scribe of The Usual Suspects who is now directing Mission: Impossible 5, asked if they could convey what Stewart meant in launching them as writers.
STEPHEN CHBOSKY: Stewart Stern was my hero and mentor since I was 17 years old. He was the best teacher I ever had. He was the kindest soul I ever met. I would have never written The Perks Of Being A Wallflower had I not known him. He changed my life and heart forever.
With his seminal work, Rebel Without A Cause, he gave voice to a generation and influenced every significant youth movement that followed. With his teleplay Sybil, he created a road map for healing the mysteries and wounds of trauma. And when he found that he had no more words to give, he poured his heart into his marriage, friendships, and teaching. If the measure of a life’s worth can be found in the simple question, “Did I leave the world a better place than I found it?”, then Stewart Stern’s legacy is forever. He was a great man simply because he was a good man.
CHRISTOPHER McQUARRIE: Both the life and work of Stewart Stern are studies in purest emotion — explorations of anguish, heartache, longing, love, fear, redemption, renewal and self-discovery. And the longer I knew him, the more I saw the man reflected in his work. A veteran of both WWII and a literal lifetime in Hollywood, Stewart dedicated his life to the giving of himself — as a writer, mentor, teacher, husband, philosopher and friend. I have searched at length for how best to remember him and words escape me — an irony I suspect Stewart would have impishly appreciated. I settled finally on an experience of pure emotion:
Stewart was, among many other things, an authority on all things Peter Pan. In his ’80s he was asked to consult on a production of the play. Characteristically, he gave of his considerable knowledge openly and with incredible insight. When offered payment, he declined. He asked for only one thing in exchange for his services:
To fly around the theater for an hour.
Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning, Crunch. And never grow up.