Kevin Farley rang me to tell me that Michael Cuccione had passed away…
If you never met Michael you couldn’t even begin to know what a life force this guy was. From the moment he walked into that casting session in Vancouver I was blown away by him. I wanted to be him: 15, handsome as heck, girls going nuts for him and everything the world had to offer in front of him…he could sing too. We were looking for someone just like this for our movie to play the part of a terminally ill kid who was Bob Buss’s final master-stroke. Then came the kicker…Coreen the casting director said to Michael “Perhaps you’d like to tell Nigel your own life story.” And, with a smile on his face like he was telling me about some holiday trip he’d taken, he told me about his fight against cancer (not once but twice), the book he’d written, the album he’d made and the half million dollars he’d raised for cancer research – he left out all the insignificant details such as meeting the Pope and hanging out with Pamela Anderson Lee!
Having seen him no-one else stood a chance in the casting session. He was Q.T. no question.
In the weeks that followed Alan, Evan, Noah, Alex, Kevin and I all became big fans of Michael. The surgeries and treatments that he’d received in his fight against cancer had left Michael with a fraction of his normal lung capacity. I suppose it was difficult for Michael to do the things we all took for granted, but he never asked for special attention, never presumed he deserved special treatment, never sought pity.
As the 2gether movie carried on through the rains and darkness of a Vancouver winter I came to realize that Michael was a much wiser man than I, his attitude was so positive. Rather condescendingly I insisted he read Nevil Shute’s ‘On The Beach’ as some preparation for his part. I felt that the way the characters pressed on with their lives, planting gardens for a spring they would never see, learning languages they would never get to speak, was a good indication of how Q.T. lived his life positively in the face of constant danger. Michael smiled and read the book. Only later did I realize what a fool I’d been. How could I suggest to one who had already been through so much that he had something to learn about suffering and positive thinking? It was I who needed to learn from him.
There was a time when I wanted to say that the best thing about making 2gether was meeting Michael. I never wrote those words for fear of them being trite and overly sentimental but I believe that meeting Michael was a gift. All of us who spent time with him will be effected by his passing. All of us will stop for a minute and realize the denial in which we all exist in believing that we are indestructible. Michael’s attitude was “my life is fantastic – what is there to complain about?” And life is fantastic.
I’m glad that we picked Michael, I’m so happy he got to meet Britney and his other idols, I’m glad he got to do what he wanted to do so badly – to sing and act and to spread his message. Though Michael was not so fortunate Q.T. will live forever.