“The worst crime is not what happened.
The worst crime is being expected not to tell.”
In Cracked Up we witness the impact that childhood trauma can have over a lifetime through the incredible story of award-winning actor, comedian, master impressionist and Saturday Night Live star, Darrell Hammond. Darrell is famous for his impressions of Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Sean Connery and more, but few know his true story and the suffering he endured. Darrell performed brilliantly on live TV, but behind the scenes he struggled with debilitating flashbacks, self injury, alcohol and drugs and once was taken out of SNL in a straight jacket. Darrell was misdiagnosed for 40 years with different mental illnesses and put on a long list of medications. After a suicide attempt, Darrell finally met the doctor who gave him the proper diagnosis of “childhood trauma”. Courageously transparent, Darrell takes us through his past and present day experiences with incredible resilience, vulnerability, wisdom and humor.
Cracked Up will be a rallying cry to join a movement that is transforming our communities one by one to become trauma informed. The science is clear - toxic stress in childhood changes the architecture of the developing brain creating ill-health downstream. Darrell’s courageous story of hope will not only move, entertain and inspire, it will break down barriers of stigma and move us all closer to better prevention and treatment with understanding and compassion.
“My doctor said to me, 'I don’t want you to say mental illness,
I want you to say mental injury…’ let's tell the whole story.”
- Darrell Hammond
Largest Investigational Study on
"When people are behaving in apparently self-destructive ways, it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with them, and time to start asking what happened to them.”
- Dr. Robert Anda and Dr. Vincent Felitti, Founders of the Adverse Childhood Experience Study
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) links 10 types of childhood trauma with the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, and violence.
The 10 ACEs are: physical, sexual, emotional abuse; physical, emotional neglect; living with a family member who’s addicted to alcohol or other drugs, is depressed, has other mental illness or who’s imprisoned; witnessing a mother's abuse; divorce or separation.
For people who have four types of childhood adversity — an ACE score of 4 — alcoholism risk increases 700 percent; attempted suicide increases 1200 percent. Heart disease and cancer nearly double. People with high ACE scores have more marriages, more broken bones, more depression, more prescription drug use, more obesity.
"Understanding many of the fundamental processes that underlie traumatic stress opens the door to an array of interventions that can bring the brain areas related to self-regulation, self perception, and attention back online. We know not only how to treat trauma but also, increasingly, how to prevent it.”
- Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Excerpt from, The Body Keeps The Score
Healing Childhood Trauma
If you think you have suffered from toxic stress as a child, it is important to seek out qualified trauma-informed-care professionals. Here is an initial list of treatments among other modalities that we have researched to be extremely healing for trauma.
Psychology Today - 8 Ways People Recover from Post Childhood Adversity Syndrome
"Cracked Up is a very powerful, great story. It certainly struck a chord with me"
- CNN, John Vause
“I think this movie is going to help a lot of people."
- WNYC - All Of It, Allison Stewart
"Esrick said, 'It's Darrell's story, but it's a bigger story that we both wanted to tell"
"Hammond's hero's journey of helping others is now well underway — a sign of his hard-won and ongoing healing"
- Psychology Today
"Hammond and the film’s director, Michelle Esrick, hope the film will encourage more doctors to learn how to identify and treat trauma"
- New York Post
"The bulk of the documentary concerns...weighty topics, but Hammond also reveals some nuggets about his comedy life, which, for a guy who was on SNL for 14 seasons, has gone curiously under-documented, until now"
- New York Magazine - Vulture
"Esrick felt if people knew this was a biological issue it would lift the shame and the stigma. The film is really about the long-term effects of childhood trauma"
- The Daily Beast
"I've been struck and remarkably impressed by director Michelle Esrick's powerful new film, Cracked Up"
- David Tereshchuk, The Media Beat
What People are saying about
"I was utterly transfixed! It is so powerful, so moving, so true, so so so important! it is such a powerful film about trauma and how lodged memories can destroy our lives and how deeply people need help to unravel these memories rather than be diagnosed with illnesses that end up keeping them drugged and numb. Much love and admiration."
— Eve Ensler, playwright, activist, founder of V-Day
“This is a masterful telling of an important story”
— Ram Dass, spiritual teacher
“Congratulations on an amazing piece of truly incredible filmmaking. It was riveting, deep, surprising, heart wrenching and beautifully realized. A very important and groundbreaking (to me) exploration of a topic too little excavated. And how brave and beautiful of Darrell to let his life and inner self be broken open for all to see. So original and so necessary.
— Bonnie Raitt, blues singer, musician, activist
“Michelle Esrick’s CRACKED UP is a profound and unflinching look at the extraordinary life of Darrell Hammond and the dark legacy of abuse he suffered as a child. It is also excellent filmmaking, delivering a highly emotional story with elegance, care and humor, thus keeping our hearts and minds open to the beauty of human resilience.
— Jamie Redford, filmmaker, "Resilience" and "Paper Tigers"
“Through Darrell Hammond’s courageous and riveting tale of trauma and recovery, Michelle Esrick illuminates the misunderstood tragedy of trauma vividly, sensitively, lovingly in her beautiful filmmaking."
— Trudy Goodman PH.D. in psychology, mindfulness teacher and founder of insight L.A.
“This is a brilliant documentary, just brilliant! I want Michelle Esrick to make my movie!”
— Jack Kornfield PH.D. in clinical psychology and International mediation teacher, best selling author
Director: Michelle Esrick
Producers: David Becker and Michelle Esrick
Co-Producers: Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker
In Association With: Artemis Rising Foundation
Executive Producers: Regina K. Scully, Geralyn White Dreyfous,
Becky Newhall, Laurie Benenson, Bill Benenson
Composer: David Robbins
Original Song and Lyrics: Diane Warren
Executive Music Producer: Bonnie Greenberg
Editors: Mark Juergens and Adam Yaffe
Additional Editor and Post Supervisor: Brian Miele
Cinematographers: Chris Hegedus, Thorsten Thielow, Daniel B. Gold, Tom Bergmann,
Joan Churchill, Zac Nicholson, Martina Radwan, Kristen Johnson
Impact Campaign Strategist: Bonnie Abaunza
Featuring: Darrell Hammond, Lorne Michaels, Steve Higgins, Christopher Ashley, Dr. Nabil Kotbi, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Whoopi Goldberg, Larry Laskowski (Darrell’s childhood friend).