"Left Behind," the apocalyptic thriller reboot about a biblical event known as "the rapture," is heading to the big screen Oct. 3, helping round off a year packed with films touting Christian and Bible-based themes.
The movie, which is based on the popular book and DVD series by the same name, stars Nicolas Cage as pilot Rayford Steele and Chad Michael Murray as journalist Buck Williams.
TheBlaze recently sat down with Paul Lalonde, the film's producer and writer, to learn more about the its focus on end-times theology and its reemergence in popular culture.
While the people behind the new film were largely responsible for creating the original "Left Behind" movies a decade ago, Lalonde has repeatedly said that audiences can expect a very different finished product from the past.
Actor Nicolas Cage on the "Left Behind" set. (Image source: Stoney Lake Entertainment)
"The reason to bring 'Left Behind' back is [two-fold]: one is to make it bigger and better, so that we can have a broader reach and a shot at a broader audience," he said. "The first time we did it it was a straight to DVD production."
That in mind, Lalonde said he wanted a bigger movie with a better-known cast, a feat his team was able to accomplish in the new iteration.
"The second reason is that the first movie was based on the entire first book in the series, so a book this fat turned into a screen play with 57 plot points and no real time to get to know the characters," Lalonde continued. "And the quintessential event that triggers all of Bible prophecy is the rapture -- and that got like three minutes of screen time in the first movie."
The focus of the new "Left Behind" is exactly that -- one that is wholly on the rapture, a theoretical theological event during which Christians will be taken up to heaven by God before the Earth's destruction.
Lalonde believes that this well-known theme has been ignored for far too long.
"If the rapture was a Mayan prophecy there would be 20 Hollywood movies by now for $100 million each," Lalonde said. "But because it’s Bible prophecy, it hasn’t been touched it hasn’t been done and I’ve always wanted to see it on the big screen."
And now he's preparing to do just that.
The filmmaker believes viewers will be pleasantly surprised by the production value and the movie's feel, which he said doesn't look and feel like many other films in the religious genre.
"I think a lot of the core Christian audience, I think they’re going to be surprised at the clarity with which we presented the rapture," he said. "I think people are expecting it to be completely buried and barely mentioned."
Image source: Stoney Lake Entertainment
When asked how he will explain "Left Behind" to journalists and reporters who might not fully understand end-times theology and the rapture, Lalonde boiled down the film and its central premise in simple terms.
"This is not very complicated. It really isn’t," he said. "It’s prophesied in the Bible and the Bible says that before the beginning of the tribulation which will be in the end times, which I have no doubt we are living in the end times so therefore it could happen tomorrow that the church is going to be called home and caught up in the air and taken to heaven and that’s what this movie’s about."
Lalonde said his team had big offers from major studios, but that keeping control over the project was a central goal. Rather than sell out to Hollywood, Lalonde said he made the tough call to raise $16 million independently -- a monumental task that allowed him to keep control over the project.
"People are afraid to invest in movies because most people who invest in movies lose their money," he explained. "Especially in the faith-based world, it’s called a donation, not an investment."
Once the hard part was over, Lalonde said filming went smoothly and that the cast and crew were delightful. Lalonde quipped that there was a "no egotist policy" on set and said that he and his team worked hard to ensure that positivity trailed throughout the film's production process.
Image source: Stoney Lake Entertainment
As far as the actors went, Lalonde had nothing but praise for Cage, whom he said brought his "A game," and he also showered accolades upon actress Cassi Thomson, who plays Chloe Steele, Rayford's daughter.
"Cassie was a gamble. Cassie hadn’t done a movie before or at least a significant movie if she’s done any," Lalonde said.
But she left him utterly impressed.
"Everything about Cassie was perfect. It was a fabulous performance," he added. "She’s very athletic and whatever the word is for tomboy, she can climb a tree and not look out of place. So she was just wonderful. She’s got a great range. She’s going to be a big star."
Editor's Note: TheBlaze was on set for the filming of "Left Behind" and faith editor Billy Hallowell appears briefly in the film, but was not compensated for his role. This story is part of an ongoing series surrounding the production and theological themes present in the storyline.
Featured image via Stoney Lake Entertainment