Scott Neeson, a former head of 20th Century Fox International, cares for more than 1,000 Cambodian children and their families.
In a haze of toxic fumes and burning waste, swarms of Phnom Penh’s most destitute were rooting through refuse, jostling for scraps of recyclables in newly dumped loads of rubbish. They earned 4,000 riel ($1) a day—if they were lucky. Many of the garbage sorters were young children. Covered in filthy rags, they were scruffy, sickly and sad.
Clasped to Mr. Neeson’s ear was his cellphone. Calling the movie mogul from a U.S. airport, a Hollywood superstar’s agent was complaining bitterly about inadequate in-flight entertainment on a private jet that Sony Pictures Entertainment—where Neeson was head of overseas theatrical releases— had provided for his client.
Neeson overheard the actor griping in the background. “‘My life wasn’t meant to be this difficult.’ Those were his exact words,” Neeson says. “I was standing there in that humid, stinking garbage dump with children sick with typhoid, and this guy was refusing to get on a Gulfstream IV because he couldn’t find a specific item onboard,” he recalls. “If I ever wanted validation I was doing the right thing, this was it.”