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End Times 'Left Behind' Movie Reboot Has Some Major Casting News

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"People don’t mind Christian characters."

Photo Credit: Paul Lalonde/Left Behind

Filming for the reboot of the first "Left Behind" feature film has begun in Baton Rouge, La., amid some casting changes. Previously, TheBlaze reported that actors Nicolas Cage (Rayford Steele), Chad Michael Murray (Buck Williams) and Ashley Tisdale (Chloe Steele) would be appearing in the movie, however there have been two major alterations to the cast.

Tisdale had a scheduling conflict and dropped out of the film. On Friday, producers took to the movie's Facebook page to announce her departure, while wishing her the best as she prepares for a television opportunity. The other announcement, though, will likely excite some reality television fans and music enthusiasts.

An exclusive photo from the set (Photo Credit: Cloud Ten Pictures/Stoney Lake Entertainment)

Grammy-nominated singer Jordin Sparks has joined on as a character named "Shasta." For now, the details surrounding her role are under wraps, but producer and scriptwriter Paul Lalonde shared a small tidbit of information about the character.

"She will be a passenger on a plane that the film’s main character Captain Rayford Steele (Nicolas Cage) is piloting," he said on the film's Facebook page.

As her fans know, Sparks has had a successful career in both music and films following her 2007 "American Idol" victory. She is the latest addition to a film that has Christian and secular media, alike, buzzing.

Earlier this summer, TheBlaze interviewed Lalonde about the movie reboot. It follows the original trinity of films that were released between 2001 and 2005. Rather than continuing the series, the franchise is very literally being rebooted, with the first installment coming to theaters in spring 2014.

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.

Singer Jordin Sparks attends the Teen Choice Awards 2013 at Gibson Amphitheatre on August 11, 2013 in Universal City, California. Credit: Getty Images

While the central themes are similar, the new version 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.”

Photo Credit: Cloud Ten Pictures/Stoney Lake Entertainment

“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.”

You can read more about the film and about Lalonde's fascinating Hollywood career here. TheBlaze will continue to provide updates about the movie as they unfold.

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