When it happens, will you be ready?
The highly anticipated theatrical reboot of Tim LaHaye’s bestselling series Left Behind hits theaters across the nation today! Nearly 15 years after the original DVD version, writers Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins got together with Director Vic Armstrong to release a Christian film that’s bigger and better than ever.
Recently, SCH got together with Hollywood stars Nicolas Cage and Jordin Sparks, as well as Director Vic Armstrong and Writer Paul LaLonde at an exclusive media roundtable interview.
SCH: How did Left Behind originate, where did the creative inspiration come from?
PL: The first thing I’ll say is that Left Behind has been a dream of mine. I’ve wanted to make this movie for probably 20 years. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – which is the big theatrical release of the day of the rapture. I’ve had the pleasure of making eight movies so far in my producing career. All of them have been based on various elements of Bible prophecy.
We did do three Left Behind movies about 10 years ago now, but those were, you know, very limited budget, straight-to-DVD movies. I’ve always wanted to make this movie and simply focus on the day of the rapture. Basically the movie is based on the 1st 25 pages of the first Left Behind book – a remake of about three minutes of the first Left Behind movie.
Watch the trailer now:
We also wanted to bring in A-list talent to the project, and so the first step in all of it was going out and finding the right director who could really bring this thing to life. That’s what led us to Vic Armstrong. Obviously, we were extremely excited when Vic read the script and liked it, and agreed to direct the movie. So that was a very big deal to me. I’ve been aware of Vic and his work for many years.
SCH: Vic Armstrong, how did you become a part of this movie adventure?
VA: I read three or four scripts a week when I’m not working and my background is pretty heavily action-orientated. I have to tell stories with visual action. After reading this script, I was thrilled with how character-driven it was and what a fabulous storyline it had. I had to say yes.
When I first meet Paul LaLonde, he came around the house and the first thing I said to him was, “Well I’ll tell you what, I love the script so much I can’t see a word in it I’d like to change. And normally on a script, you take them, you’d break them down, you’d take this out, you’d throw this away, put this in to it.” But everything you see on the screen was written in that original script. And I was blown away by this fact.
For me, this process has been a labor of love, and it’s been absolutely phenomenal.
SCH: Paul has a really brilliant quote. It says:
“The balancing for us lies in the fact that our villain in Left Behind is really the chaos caused by an act of God. It’s as much a disaster film as it is a prophecy film. And for me, the key to effective drama is that even while depicting trying circumstances we’re keeping the focus on people who are managing those circumstances. Our heroes can’t defeat a monster or a comic book villain. Our heroes have to defeat their own fears, their own weaknesses, and ultimately their own deeply held beliefs and convictions. That idea will be carried throughout the films of this franchise.”
Paul or Vic, do you guys want comment on this idea?
PL: I think the quote in and of itself is brilliant, and pretty much sums it up. I think the thing about this movie is that for people who are Bible believing Christians who truly believe this event could happen any day, it’s a wonderful true story. For the people who don’t necessarily either believe in the rapture, or even believe the Bible is true at all, it’s still a wonderful movie because it allows you to ask yourself: Ok, what if it did happen? I mean, half the people in the United States believe it’s going to happen, so, what if it did?
VA: Yeah, for me I felt I was walking a fine line in telling a great story – because you can just read it as an adventure story full of wonderful characters, fabulous performances, and great look. But you still have the other side of it, the rapture. You have the believers, you have the followers of Left Behind, and I felt very, very conscious of the fact that they trusted me to deliver.
SCH: Jordan Sparks, were you familiar with the books before you were part of this movie? Or, what was your main motivation for being in this film?
JS: I read this teen series growing up and I just remember being, you know, so affected by the thought of “Wow, what if, what if my closest friends just disappeared one day? What if they just weren’t here?” Or my closest family members or you know, and it was just really interesting. As a kid, that’s definitely very scary.
It’s something that’s like, “Ah well, it’s just in a book,” but you know – when you read the Bible and take those things to be truth, it is definitely something that you can think of and go “Wow, that could actually happen.”
I was so excited because I had read the books. And, I was like, “You know it would be really fun to be a part of this film” because they had described it as something more action-oriented.
See Jordan talk more about her role in the film:
SCH: There’s a lot of rapture-like stories out there. Paul, how do you explain to everybody the message of this film considering all other man-made stories and assumptions?
PL: Well you know the, the main thing about this movie is that it’s obviously a Christian story. It’s based on Bible prophecy. It’s an event predicted in the Bible. So in that sense, it’s something for everybody to think about and everybody to ponder.
The most fascinating thing in the world is Bible prophecy. Bible prophecy is fascinating, incredible, and so immersive when you get in there because it has so many wonderful elements. We explore some of those throughout the Left Behind series.
Also, we’ve packaged it in this movie to make it accessible to everybody. You’re not going to get in there and get a thinly disguised sermon or be preached at. We made sure this movie was accessible to everybody so everybody can be fascinated by Bible prophecy outside of any religious connotations. Left Behind achieves and allows everybody to enjoy this story.
I wanted to create a movie to reach a much broader audience where nobody’s going to walk out of there thinking, “Wow, I just got preached at for two hours.” It’s not going to be like that. We want to reach out to everybody and share this really cool story.
SCH: Hi Nicolas Cage, thanks for joining us. Why did you choose this movie and what do want the audience to get out of it?
NC: I felt that the script was a challenge, and it gave me a chance to really try to make the extraordinary, believable. To do something authentic within a performance where everything around me was sheer chaos. I was also very taken by the family dynamic that plays out in this script. That’s what drew me to the project. That, and an opportunity to work again with Vic Armstrong! I had a good rapport with him on another movie.
So, I felt that I could get to where I wanted to go with ‘Captain Steele’. This is a person in an extraordinary situation that realizes what his values are – his relationship with his family, especially “Chloe” his daughter, which is so powerful. I want people to realize we all make mistakes, but in a moment of crisis all we really want is love from our families.
That’s what pulled me into this into this project. I’ve always been attracted to movies that aren’t afraid to venture into the unknown and aren’t afraid to face the possibility of these extraordinary circumstances.
SCH: The story centers on “Rayford Steele” and his daughter “Chloe”. How do you describe their relationship? How does it relate even to your own thoughts as a father?
NC: ‘Ray Steele’ loses sight of what’s really valuable to him: his love for his family. He has flirtatious chemistry with the flight attendant played by Nicky Whelan. They’re drawn away, seduced or taken from their true inner values. “Ray Steele” gets back to his true need for family through this experience. He just wants to get back to that, no matter what happens. Just to be able to get back on the phone with his daughter to say “I’m sorry” and “I love you.” I think it’s as simple as that.
SCH: Is this the first time you’ve heard about the rapture?
NC: I’ve heard about the Bible story, even though I was not familiar with the Left Behind series. My brother, Mark, is a Christian pastor, and he was very excited about this. And he said, “You know, Nicky, you’ve really got to do this.” I already thought it was such a great script and an opportunity again to do something challenging. But when I saw how passionate my brother was, I wanted to make this movie for him too.
SCH: Any last thoughts, Nicolas, about this film, the script and your faith?
NC: I am drawn to movies that aren’t afraid to take on spiritual themes. You know, without going into my own personal spirituality (which is very sacred to me and not something the media needs to know about), I like to let my work speak for me. I like to find movies that allow me to explore these inner or outer worlds without having to really talk too much about it.
SCH: Any last thoughts Paul?
PL: I’d like to thank the cast and Vic for their time today, and for their work on this project.
I would like to give a separate hats-off to Nicolas Cage, because it took a tremendous amount of courage for anybody his stature and level to come in and do this movie. I just want to say it took courage and that was a wonderful thing, to say yes. I’m sure in the end he will see that it was the right decision. I think we’re going to have a great movie and it’s going to be a big success.
Don’t miss our special in-depth interview by Ginny Dent Brant Vic Armstrong Directs New “LEFT BEHIND” Starring Nicolas Cage
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