A First Look at the Newest Movie in the GOD’S NOT DEAD Franchise:
Actors John Corbett, Tatum O’Neal and Ted McGinley Discuss Faith and Movies
By Ben Kayser, Managing Editor
Nobody expected GOD’S NOT DEAD, a low budget, independent faith-based movie, to gross $60 million at the box office. It not only created a franchise, but paved the way for a new independent faith and family studio.
Three years later, Pure Flix Films is filming the third movie in the series, which is titled GOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS and stars John Corbett of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, Tatum O’Neal of the classic movie PAPER MOON and the original BAD NEWS BEARS, and Ted McGinley of HAPPY DAYS and CHRISTMAS WITH A CAPITAL C, among other actors from the franchise. Movieguide® last week had a chance to visit the set in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The plot of the third movie will center around Pastor Dave, played by David A.R. White, who was arrested in the second movie for refusing to submit his sermons to the government. After being released from prison, Pastor Dave’s life is thrown into chaos after his church is burned down, with tragic results. However, the university that owns the church doesn’t want to rebuild it due to the controversy surrounding Pastor Dave. So, Dave enlists his estranged atheist brother, played by John Corbett, to help him with his legal problems. Along the way, Dave’s faith is put to the test as he begins to wonder if God truly is good all the time, as he frequently says.
John Corbett who just starred in the faith-based movie ALL SAINTS. was excited at the opportunity to be in GOD’S NOT DEAD.
“I’m a Christian,” Corbett said, and of the script, “I read it, and I really, really liked it. I hadn’t seen GOD’S NOT DEAD, but I was aware of it.”
He added, “A movie like this is not a big budget movie, which means everyone is working on it because they like the flick. So sometimes [a script like that] won’t even make it to me [because usually scripts are screened by agents and managers first]. So, Brian [Corbett’s friend] was hoping I gave [the script] a legitimate read, and I read it and really, really liked it. They give you the pre-requisite that it’s a Christian movie, so before you open it, you already have all these ideas as to what it’s going to be like, and for me it was a straight-ahead drama. I closed it and called Brian and said, ‘Tell them I’m in.’”
HAPPY DAYS star Ted McGinley is also in the GOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS. No stranger to working on Christian movies, and having won the Grace Prize for Most Inspiring Performance in TV, he said, “I’ve done a bunch with them [Pure Flix], and I love these guys. I love that they walk the walk, and they were walking the walk before they were making money. This is a good time for this movie.”
Even though A LIGHT IN DARKNESS is a third GOD’S NOT DEAD movie, “It’s not really GOD’S NOT DEAD 3,” McGinley said. Also, the movie will take a more inward look at Christian faith than the others.
“This is sort of a mirror of all of us,” he noted, “in that we often can’t even hear the other side because we’re so either pumped up to get our point across, or so fearful of what you might say, or so angry that you have a different point of view. I think this [movie] is a pretty good mirror of us all.”
David A.R. White also spoke to the movie’s relevant message, which he said had nine different script revisions, and three different writers.
“You can’t watch the news and be happy,” he said. “I think this movie is relevant for that, and hopefully from both sides of the aisle, [people] could go and watch this story about two brothers who really don’t like each other, which could be the symbolism of America.”
He hopes people can walk out of the movie being encouraged with “healing, forgiveness, hope, and love.”
Corbett also discussed how the movie will reveal more about Pastor Dave’s character, played by David A.R. White.
“This film reminds me of Billy Jack,” he said. “Out of all the Billy Jack movies, there was the child Billy Jack, and then there was Billy Jack Goes to Washington, which happened to be my favorite Billy Jack. It was sort of the most political drama of them all, and you got to find out a lot of the backstory of how Billy Jack came to be. For fans of [Pastor] David Hill [in GOD’S NOT DEAD] they’re gonna find out more about David in this movie than they ever had.”
Since the movie follows Pastor Dave struggling with his faith amid a difficult period of life, the subject of doubt came up.
“I think that since it’s a human condition, doubt,” McGinley said, “every time you get to that point in your feelings with God and how you see your life, when you come out through the other side you’re either stronger, or more clear, and it’s really a real problem is when we make it as if it’s not a real issue. Whoever is giving you the message has the same issues. You hear time after time of a minister or somebody in the community who doesn’t live up to the morals of what’s expected with the church, and it’s really because he’s just a human like everybody else.”
Tatum O’Neal, who won an Academy Award at the age of 10 for her movie PAPER MOON, making her the youngest person to win an Oscar, opened about her own struggles with faith.
“I think we all have different points in our life where we wonder if God is really caring for us,” she said. “I think it’s all in the bigger picture that we see. It may not be exactly the timing [we want].
She shared with MOVIEGUIDE® about her personal, family struggles and how it led her to faith. She talked about her mother, actress Joanna Moore.
“My mother was a Baptist from the rural parts of Georgia,” O’Neal said. “She had a very difficult upbringing. Her parents died when she was a little tiny girl. She was six years old. Her mother, father and sister all [were lost] in one car crash. I think that that really jolted her belief system. She was then adopted by not her own family, but a wealthy family that ended up sending her to Agnes Scott School, where she was the homecoming queen and ended up going to Hollywood.
“In Hollywood, she was under contract to Hitchcock and was under contract to Universal. They wanted to fix her hair, so she started to have to wear wigs in the 50s, then they gave her pills to stay thin. So, by the time I was born in 1963, she was really battling with her belief system and addiction, which I think is happening all across America in different ways.
“She started to believe in Tammy Faye,” O’Neal added. My little brother had a little tumor on his leg, and she wanted to get him healed, and I think it scared my brother and I. Years later when I was struggling with my own addiction, I got down on my knees. This was about 15 years ago, maybe 20. I asked God, ‘Just please, get me help.’ [At the time] my father really wasn’t a part of my life, and my kids were with my ex-husband. The next day, all I can tell you was that I was in a car on my way to a rehab to get well. I’ve had a couple moments like that this year. I hadn’t had work in a period of time. I literally got down on my hands and knees, and I said, ‘Please God,’ and the next morning my agent called and said they’re offering a job on CRIMINAL MINDS.
“My best friend gave me the most beautiful diamond cross, which I wear every single day of my life. For me, that is the way I know that God is watching me, and I feel so lucky and loved.”
GOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS opens nationwide March 30, 2018.