For an alcoholic, living a sober life and reconnecting with loved ones is a deeply personal quest. Richard Wallrath opened up about his drunken past in order to prevent others from making the mistakes he made.
Deep in the Heart tracks the depths of Wallrath’s despair as well as his rebirth as a sober, impassioned man of character.
“I thought it might be able to help somebody,” Wallrath says bluntly about why he approved a film based on his life, adding statistics say most families grapple with addiction at some point.
For actor Jon Gries, best known for playing Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite, bringing Wallrath’s story to the big screen demanded an attention to detail unlike other roles.
“I wanna say out loud how brave it is for Mr. Wallrath to allow this story to be told in such a public arena,” Gries tells Big Hollywood. “You run the risk of it being told improperly … redemption is a big thing.”
Wallrath says the more movies in the marketplace detailing the horrors of addiction and the possibility for redemption, the better. Deep in the Heart, now available on home video, offers the added bonus of a real-life happy ending. Wallrath eventually beat back his demons and went on to become the highest all-time individual donor to Texas 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) as well as providing educational scholarships to those in need.
“I was able to turn my life around. They can get out [too],” Wallrath says. “I was able to do something with my life with God’s help.”
Wallrath’s faith plays a critical role in the film and his recovery.
Gries says he kept Wallrath’s faith foremost in his mind during the production, and that no matter how others tap their spirituality it helps to become humble before starting a recovery attempt.
Wallrath spent some time on the film’s set, but he made sure to connect as much as possible with Gries before the cameras began to roll.
“As a kid my father hung around with a lot of cowboy-type ranchers,” Gries says, friends who reminded him constantly of Wallrath. “To me, Dick wasn’t originally born in Texas, but he’s Texas through and through … he’s a self-made guy. He takes no guff from anybody.”
The film, which also stars D.B. Sweeney, Val Kilmer and Elaine Hendrix, forced Wallrath to relive memories he’d rather not confront ever again.
“There’s enough hurt there,” Wallrath says. “But that’s how things really happened.”