For almost two decades, Dr. Ronald Mallett, a physics professor at the University of Connecticut, has admired Spike Lee’s story-telling ability. He had seen Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” almost 20 years ago, calling it “brilliant.” “Malcolm X,” he says, “was such a superb film.”
But he never thought Lee’s long-admired skills would be used to exhibit his own life story, about a man who has been driven by a profound desire to make time travel a reality so he could go back and save the life of his father, who tragically died when Mallett was young. Never, that is, until Mallett received that fateful phone call from Lee earlier this year.
Says Mallett: “To me it was like a dream come true. I thought how perfect it is to have a brilliant African-American director choose to do this.”
Lee’s production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Inc., acquired the rights to Mallett and writer Bruce Henderson’s book, Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality. Lee is currently in the research and script writing stages of making the memoir into a major motion picture film, says Mallett, who will serve as the film’s technical adviser, counseling filmmakers on anything that has to do with the real possibilities of time travel.
“I am elated to have acquired the rights to a fantastic story on many levels, but also a father-and-son saga of loss and love,” Lee says.
When Mallett, 63, was in his adolescence, like many young boys, his father was the center of his life. But one day he died suddenly of a massive heart attack.
His father was just 33 years old.
“It just tore my world completely apart, I mean just completely apart,” says Mallett, who was 10.
“And I really went into a deep depression as a child because of this, and I just was inconsolable. But one of the gifts he left me was this love for reading, and I loved reading science fiction.”
A year after he lost his father, Mallett read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. The reading of that 144-page novella brought Mallett out of his depression.
“This gave me a dream, a goal, a reason to live,” Mallett says. “I thought if I could build a time machine, then I could go back and see him and then maybe save his life. And that became the core of my life.”
Mallett, one of the nation’s first Blacks to earn a doctorate in theoretical physics, is now close to achieving his life’s purpose. He has developed a theory for time travel and a model for an actual time machine. He needs only the funds to conduct an experiment in which he will first send a single atom (humans are composed of billions of atoms) back in time.
“If you send one atom back, then it’s only a matter of time before you send a bunch of them back,” says Dr. Ronald Mickens, professor of physics at Clark Atlanta University. “It’s like the old Chinese saying, ‘A journey begins with the first step.’ And as far as I know, he has received no criticism in terms of [the] validity of his work.” Mallett’s story, however, has little to do with science, Mickens says.
“I look at it as the search by a particular individual to try to connect with a very significant person who is no longer in the present, and the only way that that person can be seen again is to travel back in time,” he says. “This can be the prototype of a story of anyone who had a deep love for a parent and wanted to connect with that person. I look forward to the movie.”
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