Actor and humanitarian speaks at Columbia College

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

Actor and humanitarian Edward James Olmos spoke Tuesday night at Columbia College as a part of the Schiffman Lecture Series titled "Ethics in Hollywood."

Olmos enthusiastically described why the ethics of his industry are brutal, saying that most of Hollywood could care less and only wants the money.

Olmos played Lt. Martin Castillo on "Miami Vice" and has more recently played the character of Admiral William Adama on the Sci Fi Channel's"Battlestar Galactica," according to The Internet Movie Database. The star explained how he initially turned down his role on "Miami Vice" several times, despite increasing salary offers, until he was offered a non-exclusive contract and allowed total artistic and creative control.

"I do not work through dollars," Olmos said. "I was willing to give up the money. You must live up to your values and what you think is right. You cannot buy back dignity."

He said that he makes a conscious choice not to do a movie if it will create an inaccurate portrayal of his Latino culture.

Olmos turned down the role of Mitch Leary in the film "In the Line of Fire." The role eventually went to John Malkovich, who was nominated for an Academy Award.

"Ethically speaking, I could not do that movie," Olmos said. "It would have been over for my culture, over."

He then asserted humorously that he would have won the award had he accepted.

Olmos then discussed his Latino heritage and the importance of throwing away the term "race" because it creates discrimination.

"There is only one race. You know it and I know it, and yet you consider me to be of Latino race," he said. "It hurts. It makes me cry because there's only one race and it's the human race."

Olmos also said that he considers film to be the most powerful medium that human beings ever created, and that nothing attacks the subconscious mind like an audio-visual event.

"It makes you want to go out and do," he said.

He said that his film "Stand and Deliver" was one of the best examples of instilling inspiration in audiences. Olmos played the role of Jaime A. Escalante in that film, according to the movie database.

"'Stand and Deliver' motivates and makes you want to go forward," he said. "It gives you hope and inspires teachers and students."

Olmos also said education is important, commenting that a bachelor's degree is what a high school degree was 30 years ago. He also said that self-esteem, respect and worth are key.

"If you don't have self-worth, you don't have a problem inflicting pain on others," he said.

Olmos said that he has always lived his life giving more than he received.

"It's what you do, the things you do, that make you who you are. I'm very proud of my work. I'm proud of the reasons that I stand here in front of you," he said.

"I went into the worst kind of occupation where you needed a pretty face. You needed to have talent, talent being that the cameras liked you. I'm a kid that had no talent, nothing, and I was able to do and be and live my dream, so there's no excuse why you can't do it."

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Ray Shapiro March 11, 2009 | 9:29 p.m.

He's olmos my favorite character actor, and definitely a great humanitarian.
(Superb article.)

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