Black Cloud: It was a turn of events as disturbing as Dexter itself. In 2010, while Michael C. Hall, lovable serial-killer lead of Showtime’s pitch-black hit, was in the midst of filming season four, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The news had an eerie resonance for the actor, then 38: his own father had died of prostate cancer at age 39.
Silver Lining: Hall kept his diagnosis a secret from his coworkers, and started an aggressive months-long regimen of radiation and chemotherapy the day after shooting wrapped. The treatment sent his cancer into full remission, and he not only was able to start season 5 of Dexter on schedule—and keep the large cast and crew gainfully employed. Hall says he“probably would have kept it quiet had the awards shows not come up, and I felt obliged to explain my lack of eyebrows.”What’s next for the guy whose two big-time roles—a good-hearted killing machine and repressed mortician (on Six Feet Under)—were all about corpses? “I can’t seem to get away from dead bodies,” Hall admitted recently. “Even if it’s my own.”
Giuseppe Verdi conducts the Orchestra of Paris at the premier presentation of Aida in 1880. In 1840, at age 27, Verdi became despondent over the death of his beloved wife and both infant children, victims of cholera. He planned to give up composing but when he threw down a text a producer had sent it fell open to a quote that inspired him to write an acclaimed opera, Nabucco.
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Black Cloud: The great Italian composer fell into an abyss in 1840, at 27. His second opera had been a resounding flop, closing on opening night. Far worse: over the past two years, his beloved wife and both infant children had died, victims of cholera. Despondent, Verdi became a recluse, reading trashy Victorian novels and writing not a note. He planned to give up composing altogether. When a producer sent him the text for a proposed new Biblical opera, Nabucco, he threw it on the table in disgust.
Silver Lining: Call it divine inspiration or good fortune. But as the composer later recalled, “The roll of paper opened out; and without knowing quite how, I found myself staring at the page in front of me and my eyes fell on this line: ‘Va pensiero sull’ali dorati.’” (Translated: “Fly, thought, on the golden wings.”) The words—the opening of a chorus of exiled Hebrew slaves—gave Verdi a jolt: he saw the number as a metaphor for his nation’s patriots, struggling to free themselves from Austrian rule. He started writing obsessively. Nabucco proved to be a smash, and Verdi went on to become Italy’s most celebrated composer, writing works like Aida and Rigoletto. “Va, pensiero,” meanwhile, is a melody everybody in Italy knows by heart; in 2008, an Italian senator proposed making it the national anthem. Verdi is a classic example of the people who would turn their lives around no matter what happened.
Walt Disney works at the desk in Mickey Mouse Studios just outside of Los Angeles in 1933. After a disastrous early career in Kansas City, Disney headed out to Hollywood where he built an empire around a mouse, perhaps modeled on the tame mouse who shared the office where he was forced to sleep back in Kansas City.
Black Cloud: Early on in his career, Disney proved to be a sputtering, crashing business dud. In 1923, at age 20, Disney started the Laugh-o-Grams company—an animation studio supplying shorts to Kansas City movie theaters. Always the visionary, he embarked on groundbreaking and vastly expensive projects like a combo live action and cartoon flick called Alice’s Wonderland. (Spoiler: It was no wonderland.) Big Walt lacked the financial acumen to back up his high-octane creativity. He soon found himself virtually homeless, sleeping in his office (where he befriended a tame mouse) and taking showers at the train station. Just a year after opening his doors, he was forced to declare bankruptcy.