It's been almost eight months since TheBlaze first told you about the "Left Behind" feature film re-boot. The new project, set to star Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray and Ashley Tisdale, will take on an entirely different tone from the first trinity of Bible-based, end-times-themed movies. So, what should you expect, you ask? We have new, exclusive details.
While the Christian message will still be at its core, the intended audience for the project is more far-reaching -- and that's only one of the intended changes. With "Left Behind's" first, new installment less than a year away from theaters (spring 2014), we interviewed producer and script writer Paul LaLonde to learn more about the much-anticipated project.
Produced by Cloud Ten Pictures and Stoney Lake Entertainment -- LaLonde's Christian production companies -- the motion picture follows a number of successful, faith-based entertainment projects, including Mark Burnett's "The Bible" television series, among many others. With the religious entertainment market ripe for consumption, "Left Behind" could end up being a major blockbuster.
"Left Behind's" Past Success -- and Future Prospects
Anyone with an interest in Christian entertainment who was paying attention back in 2001 would know that LaLonde's original film series was highly successful.
As for the favorable outcomes surrounding the past movies, LaLonde admitted that he was surprised by just how big the response was. That said, there was really no reason to think "Left Behind" wouldn't make waves among audiences, especially considering his company's previous track-record (all of their films had done well).
But success aside, the new re-boot is entirely different from the first "Left Behind" series on a number of fronts. From the scale to the intended audience, the scenario this time around parts ways quite a bit from the previous productions.
"This is a much bigger movie a much bigger investment -- we are certainly aiming this time to have more of a crossover movie," LaLonde told TheBlaze. "When we did the first 'Left Behind, it was never an outreach. It was made by Christians for Christians ... there was never an idea that we're going to put this in the cineplex next to 'Spiderman' and compete for the same audience."
The challenge with a more mainstream film -- one that plans to stay true to its Christian values -- is trying to walk a line that merges entertainment that can attract the masses with intricate faith themes. LaLonde said that he and his team had to work through an "outreach perspective," while also making sure that the movie doesn't feel too "preachy."
"People don't mind faith elements in movies. People don't mind Christian characters," he said. "What non-Christians don't want is to just be preached to -- and for it to just be a sermon."
The new "Left Behind" will be a character-driven film -- one that focuses on individuals' lives and plights in the hours before and after the rapture. While many of the scenes will take place on an airplane (one of the main characters, Rayford, is a pilot), other portions of the film will capture the events on the ground.
"This isn't a disaster movie. This is a character movie," he added. "And its about the characters reacting to when the rapture happens ... so that when we saw all of their different reactions to when the people disappear, we know who they are and we know where they were coming from."
The new project has the support of Jerry Jenkins, too -- one of the authors of the original book series. While the script remains true to the text of the first book, it will be more action-packed, as LaLonde is hopeful that "Left Behind" will make a real impact on audiences.
"I think it can open a lot of doors that would not have otherwise be opened," the filmmaker said of the movie. "People are fascinated by it. People are fascinated by the idea of the rapture."
LaLonde's Start in Christian Film-Making
Considering the string of successful Christian films that LaLonde has produced over the past two decades, TheBlaze asked how he first got involved in the niche market of faith-based movie-making.
For the filmmaker, his foray into the entertainment sphere started when he and his brother, Peter, hosted a show called "This Week in Bible Prophesy." It was originally broadcast on TBN, among other Christian outlets. Naturally, this led the brothers into the film industry after they also realized the power that Bible-based documentaries can have.
Photo Credit: Cloud Ten Pictures
"We had a pretty big outreach...[but] we always needed to pay the bills, so we had to make products that we could sell," LaLonde explained, noting that educational films were a natural way to do this.
For one of the movies, he and his brother created a dramatization of the rapture -- an action that ended up having a long-lasting impact.
"It was unbelievably successful. People loved the video and this dramatization," he said of the skit. "So we thought, 'If we did this in five minutes, how hard could it be to make a movie?'"
Actor Nicolas Cage and his agent Michael Nilon (Photo Credit: AP)
From there, the beginnings of Cloud Ten Pictures took root, with the brothers first making "Apocalypse," a film that, quite naturally, focused upon Armageddon. After that performed well, LaLonde said they just kept making films. Eventually, they created the "Left Behind" series, which was predicated upon the monumentally-successful book series by the same name.
Lessons LaLonde Has Learned About Hollywood
Over the years, LaLonde -- being in a unique position as a person of faith who also produces entertainment -- has gained a unique perspective. When asked about the lessons he has learned about Hollywood over the past ten to fifteen years, he was candid.
"I think that the first thing -- when you first go down to Hollywood and decide, 'Okay, we're going to try and make a big movie -- a Hollywood movie -- and you go down there thinking, 'This is going to be a real challenge, because, in Hollywood, everyone hates Christians, everyone's left-wing and they're not going to like what we're doing' [you might be surprised]," he said.
LaLonde said that much of Hollywood's aversion to Christian-based films is based on fear more than it is a dislike for people of faith.
"They see it as dangerous. I think that was the number one thing that I learned," the filmmaker said of his Hollywood experience. "They don't hate you because you're making a faith based movie. This is all about, 'Are you going to sell tickets, are you going to make money?'"
Actor Chad Michael Murray and Actress Kenzie Dalton arrive at the 21st Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation's Oscar Viewing Party on February 24, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
That said, LaLonde said that dealing with some agents has sometimes been a challenge. While working with talent has always been easy, some agents, due to the faith-based nature of scripts, have declined to pass the text on to their clients.
Obviously, that hasn't halted LaLonde's success.
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