How a Hollywood producer ended up in a landfill in Cambodia, and why he has no regrets: Scott Neeson

In 2002, Scott Neeson was the director of 20th Century Fox International, and it was under his supervision that such films as Titanic and X-Men were shot. He had everything a man could dream of – a million-dollar salary, a Porsche, a yacht, a luxurious mansion in Los Angeles, and a whole list of celebrity friends. But at the peak of his career, he gave up the movie business to be happy in the dumps of Cambodia.

Scott Neeson, originally from Scotland, by the age of 45 had reached the heights of a career and full financial well-being.

“I could have easily worked in the film industry for the rest of my life. I don’t think I was any more miserable than any of the other successful Hollywood producers. If you looked at my life from the outside, you’d say I was lucky. I couldn’t say that about myself,” Scott said of himself.

In 2003, Scott Neeson took his first vacation in 12 years and went to Cambodia to see Buddhist temples. And that country was just one stop on his Asian tour. Sitting in a Phnom Penh café one day, Scott gave some money to a child tramp. And one of the customers Scott got talking to told him:

“If you want to help kids for real, go to the city dump.”

And the Hollywood producer as under hypnosis followed this advice.

He would later confess that what he saw there was a real shock: about 200 homeless children who were picking up trash at the dump to somehow survive another day. The stench was so bad you could almost touch it.

“Like most people, I thought that special organizations should help such children. But at that moment I was standing there alone, and there was no social service nearby. Either you do something or they stay there. I could have turned around and pretended I’d never seen it. But for the first time, I felt like my purpose was to be here,” Scott Neeson later recounted.

The first thing he did was rent apartments for 2 homeless children away from the dump and pay for their treatment. It turned out that in Cambodia, $40 a month was enough for a child to be provided with everything they needed.

“I was embarrassed that it was so easy,” Scott admitted.

And already on his way to America, he began to think that perhaps helping children was his true calling. Such thoughts were unexpected even for him. He feared that this was the same midlife crisis, and he knew how scary it can be in Hollywood.

Throughout the next year, Scott Neeson lived in two countries – 3 weeks he spent in Hollywood and a week he flew to Phnom Penh. It was as if he was waiting for a sign from above that he was doing everything right.

He once made an appointment with one of the most famous actors. He was flying in on a private jet and they served him the wrong lunch. And the Hollywood star shouted into Neeson’s earpiece:

“My life wasn’t supposed to be this complicated!”

And in front of Scott’s eyes was a dumpster where children were starving to death. And then Scott finally decided that this was a sign – he had to drop everything and go to Cambodia, or he would live his life in falsehood and scenery.

Absolutely everyone – family, colleagues and friends – tried to dissuade him. But Scott Neeson calculated that he had enough money to support 200 children for eight years. And he sold all of his possessions to do it. And during that time he also created the Cambodian Children’s Fund organization, which aims to provide children with education, housing and medical treatment.

Scott Neeson has been living in Cambodia for the last ten years. He has had helpers and followers. During this time, his organization has managed to help 2,000 children from the country’s most hopeless slums: they have been provided with housing, treatment and education.

“I’ve never been married and never felt I needed to be. Being a single man in the Hollywood movie business is too good a life,” Scott says. “There were beautiful women in Los Angeles, of course, but I couldn’t imagine, even in my wildest dreams, marrying any of them. Right now I have quite enough children to look after. In ten years, they’ll take care of me, and I’ll be a grandfather to them.”

He also confesses that there is more love in his life today than he ever imagined. And his only fear is what would happen to him if he stayed in Hollywood.

The former president of the world’s biggest movie company now spends the lion’s share of his time in a junkyard and admits that the only luxury item in his house is a coffee machine. And when asked if he misses his former life in Hollywood, he answers:

“Only the boat. It gave me an inexplicable sense of freedom.”

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