Only three short years ago, religious films were met with resistance in Hollywood. In 2013, when producer Joe Roth was assembling “Heaven is Real,” he had difficulties even getting the ball rolling.
Roth recalls now the resistance he was up against. “At that time, if the casting agent says, ‘I want Brad Pitt,’ his agent says, ‘No, no. He’d never do a faith-based movie.’ There was definitely some of that,” says Roth.
Fast forward to 2016, and it seems that religion is very much back in fashion in Hollywood. With a new wave of inspirational, religiously-inspired films hitting theaters this Lent season, it appears that filmmakers who wouldn’t have normally given projects like Roth’s so much as a prayer are now giving them numerous blessings — and investments.
And if you look at the celebrity roster signing up to star in these films, it’s clear that this trend is hitting the mainstream.
Take “Miracles From Heaven,” for example. Starring Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah, the film is imbued with heavily Christian themes. Based on a true story, the film follows the family of Anna Beam, a young girl who is cured of a rare lifelong digestive illness after falling headfirst into a hollowed out tree. Typically, when trees aren’t pruned yearly, their limbs become weak. But this mishap quickly turned into a miracle, as young Anna reports having met Jesus while unconscious.
Inspirational films with Christian themes are by no means new to the film world. Recall the days of Kirk Cameron and Kevin Sorbo. But now, these themes are no longer radioactive and are a viable choice for notable Hollywood directors and actors.
Perhaps this revival is a gentle reminder of the power of the self-identified Christian moviegoer.
“The Hollywood community has historically viewed faith films through a political lens,” said ‘Miracles From Heaven’ co-producer, DeVon Frankel. “So you wouldn’t get the Hollywood community to support this and put their clients in a film. But over the years, that stigma has diminished.”