The first words Jamie Lee Curtis said to Maggie Green, the mother of Nicholas Green, the seven-year old California boy who was shot while on a family vacation in Italy, and whom she was going to play in a made-for-television movie, were: “I hope I won’t let you down, Maggie.”
I can’t think of any other superstar who would have had the unpretentiousness and sense of involvement to say anything like that. As the mother of two adopted children, Nicholas’ death was a knife in her own heart. Yet she was able to discipline her anguish into a performance that earned her a nomination for an Emmy.
The movie, “Nicholas’ Gift,” was based on our decision to donate our son’s organs and corneas to seven very sick Italians, four of them teenagers.
Awareness of the loss of life due to the shortage of donated organs increased all over the world as millions of people understood for the first time that a simple ‘yes’ could save multiple families from devastation. In Italy alone donations tripled in the next ten years, a rate of increase no other country has come close to,
The movie was made in 1998, four years after Nicholas was killed. It has been seen by around a hundred million people, including forty million in the United States. Les Moonves, then CEO of CBS, said it was the network’s ‘crown jewel.’ In the movie, I am played by Alan Bates.
A few days ago Jamie told me she is as proud of her performance in that role as anything else in her career. Deservedly. I don’t think anyone watching her working her way from the horror of the shooting to the quiet determination to save the lives of total strangers could remain indifferent to its message of selflessness. It was just how Maggie dealt with it in real life.
On a street in Rome two or three years after the movie was made, a stranger came up to me and told me he was an extra in it. “We were all expecting a bigshot Hollywood star but every day she ate in the canteen with the rest of the cast.”
The genuine article? You bet.
P.S. Jamie, We were married for only ninety minutes but they were some of the most consequential in my life!