Dani Dials sits down with actors Greg Kinnear, Thomas Haden Church, and director Randall Wallace to talk about their new movie, Heaven is for Real.
When asked about his thoughts upon first hearing about the Burpo’s story, director Randall Wallace says, “When I first heard it, I didn’t believe it. It was when I started to read the book that I was caught up from the first page.” Greg Kinnear says, “That’s a concept that is not one-size-fits-all. Your vision and somebody else’s vision are always going to be different. While the movie does touch on that, it certainly gives you some sense of what this boy experienced. It focuses more on the family and the conflict and the diffuculty that they went through then this all happened. I was surprised by how much of a struggle there was for Todd, with his faith being rocked by the boy coming back from this near-death experience.”
Wallace says, “The real way the story is told, the convincing details, the natural story, made me think I need to pay attention to this.”
Because this movie is based off of a true story Wallace says there’s a responsiblity to tell the story a certain way. He says, “The book sold over 8 million copies when I first came across it. And now, it’s popped back up to number 1 on the New York Times best-seller list, so I thought it was a story that everyone would be fascinated by, and we had to be faithful to the book.” Thomas Haden Church says, “I talked to Randall Wallace a few times, and we realized that we had very similar back-stories. He was raised Baptist in Tennessee, and I was raised Baptist in Texas. I thought this is someone who wants to expand beyond what the story is with the family and make it accessible to an audience as a feature film. “
Wallace says there’s not much difference between the book and the movie. He says, “There are a couple of differences. Thomas Haden Church and Margo Martindale’s characters are combinations of other characters that were in the lives of the people. We brought a couple of the characters together, but the story is really faithful to what the book says.”
Kinnear says, “I have no business being a minister, so that was all trial-by-fire. I hadn’t played a pastor before. You do have respect for somebody that has to stand there in front of a group of 400 people and be that vulnerable.”
When asked if this movie affects his thoughts on life after death, Kinnear says, “The central question of anybody’s life is whether or not there’s something beyond this life. I think those ideas, and that discussion are going to be born out of the movie, and certainly the book.” Church says, “It didn’t really change (my thoughts), it sort of solidified what I was trained to believe when I was younger and as an adult, what I chose to believe. I think that after death, if there is a hopeful, loving, human warmth that’s a place where your spirit can exist, I think that’s a very peaceful thing to look forward to.”
Heaven is for Real is now in theaters.