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Confusion over producer's speech leads to threats

RONAN (AP) — Confusion that led to the cancellation of a Hollywood movie producer's talk to some high school seniors in western Montana has led the superintendent to apologize and the principal to move his family out of their house because of death threats.

"Schindler's List" producer Gerald Molen said he believes Ronan High School Principal Tom Stack did what he thought was right when he canceled the May 14 speech, but he said Stack didn't handle things very well.

In a May 27 letter to the editor of the Daily Inter Lake, Molen complained that Stack canceled his speech — just minutes before he was to give it — because some people complained that Molen was too politically conservative.

Molen has been vocal about his conservative views and was most recently involved in the development of a speculative documentary titled "2016," which is about "what America will look like in 2016 if the present administration gets another term," Molen said.

In the past, Stack said, Ronan schools has notified parents if it appeared some might find a speaker to be controversial and has given them the option to decide whether their child should attend.

When he was contacted by parents and others concerned with Molen's possible subject matter, Stack said he talked with the teacher who set up the speech. It was then that both discovered that neither had discussed the topic with Molen or how it related to the curriculum.

With no time to contact parents, Stack said he canceled the speech.

Molen's letter to the editor said Stack never asked him what he was going to talk about and didn't ask to see the speech he had spent weeks working on.

On Friday, Superintendent Andy Holmlund apologized to Molen.

Stack told the school board on Monday he took full responsibility for the breakdown in communications that led him to "err on the side of caution," and cancel the speech. He also said the fallout, that included death threats, led him to remove his wife and children from their home over the weekend, the Missoulian reported.

The threats have been reported to the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Molen, 77, is a Montana native and Academy Award winner who produced several Steven Spielberg-directed films, including "Jurassic Park" and "Minority Report."

He said when he talks with students, he tells them that his Hollywood career started with driving a truck for a movie studio before working his way up to production manager and to his association with Spielberg.

Molen said he had planned to tell the seniors to "assume their life is like a movie, and let's have you write a script that tells the story of where you will be in 30 or 40 years."

Molen was a co-producer on the 1988 movie "Rain Man," an executive producer on the 1990 movie "Days of Thunder." His first producer credit was the 1991 movie "Hook."

He said he tells students that, "I'd rather see them get an education and not make the mistakes I made," Molen said. "It took me 25 years to get my first producing credit, when anybody with a plan could do it in 5."

Molen said he feels bad about the threats Stack has received.

"I've never seen it become so divisive as it is," Molen said. "We've always been able to have lively debates and conversations — wonderful conversations — about issues. This is different. Something has happened and I don't know what it is."


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