How Joel and Luke Smallbone Turned Family’s Story into UNSUNG HERO

Photo from for KING + COUNTRY’s Instagram

How Joel and Luke Smallbone Turned Family’s Story into UNSUNG HERO

By Movieguide® Contributor

For KING + COUNTRY’s Joel and Luke Smallbone recently appeared on TBN UK to share how their family’s story turned into the inspirational movie, UNSUNG HERO.

“I’ve told our family story in concerts for about the last 11 or 12 years,” Luke shared, “and through that, had a bunch of people that would come up and say, you know, Joel, Luke, you know you guys should write a book about your story, and, you know, the truth is, Joel and I were homeschooled, so we don’t read or write very well, so we thought maybe we could make a movie,” he joked.

“It was actually during the pandemic that there’s a friend of mine who’s a producer in LA, and we worked on a film together called PRICELESS in 2016, and him and I have just stayed close, and he would keep saying like we got to find another project to work on, we got to find another project to work on, and so I just randomly called him and just said, ‘Hey, man, you know there’s something about, you know, Mom and Dad’s story coming from Australia to America that really impacts people deeply,” Luke said.

As soon as Luke suggested the idea, his friend immediately replied, “Let’s do it.”

Joel said, “I found out a week or two later because the producers were going to fly in to sort of break the story…we flew in the screenwriter Richard Ramsey and sort of sat all masked…and you know, socially distanced and talked about the story.”

Joel performs as his father in the movie, which tells the story of their family’s move from Australia to the U.S. and how they became musicians. Joel also co-wrote and co-directed, while Luke served as a producer.

“I remember from really the moment I heard about it, I was unsure, but the first thought I had was, ‘How interesting would that be if I played Dad in the film?’”

“This was before thinking about co-directing or screenwriting or anything of the sort,” Joel continued. “I’ve done a bit of acting, and we know the subject, Dad, very well, and part of the job of playing characters you want to, you know, create someone who — particularly real-to-life character — someone who sort of embodies that person, and we’re bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.”

Joel didn’t consider all the “ramifications” of his role.

“I’m Joel, but there’s a kid actor who’s Joel, and I’m my dad, and that’s my sister, and this is Mom, but you have to kiss Mom, but it’s not your mom…It kind of breaks your brain, yeah, a little bit, but [it was] a really profound experience for me and for both of us to be able to step into our parents’ story. Not as kids, which is…how we experienced it,” he explained.

Part of Movieguide®’s review of UNSUNG HERO reads:

UNSUNG HERO is a true story about a Christian family from Australia’s struggles to survive and thrive in the rough and tumble music business while trying to serve God. When the father, David Smallbone, loses big on promoting an unsuccessful tour, he thinks relocating the family to Nashville may be their best route forward. Odd jobs and a local church keep the family afloat while David seeks work in the music industry. David’s father, wife Helen and others tell him he should focus on the musical talent living under his own roof. The family’s prospects rise when he takes that advice to heart. Can focusing on God and family lead them to the new life they seek?

UNSUNG HERO is a powerful, compelling story of faith and family, told with lots of sincerity and heart. The acting and writing is very good and convincing. UNSUNG HERO has a strong Christian, biblical worldview. The family’s Christian faith is not only clear from their repeated prayers to Jesus to guide and provide for them, but also from their infectious enthusiasm and spiritually uplifting song lyrics.

The brothers’ work on the movie allowed them to understand their parents’ trials on a deeper level.

“When you have the opportunity to tell a story like this, where we’re going back 33 years ago, and we’re reliving it, that gives you a lot more compassion, empathy for your parents,” Luke told the Christian Film Review. “So you actually start going when they say these things, you go, Oh, now I actually know why, or they act that way. Or maybe there is a trauma response to certain things that happen.”

The Grammy-award-winning musicians honored their parents through the movie and dedicated songs to them in their “Unsung Hero (The Inspired By Soundtrack)” album.

On father’s day, the brothers shared a video dedicated to their dad. They told him, “What a year. 🗓️ For who you are, for all you do…. for the way you love Mum… the way you honor God… we certainly are grateful to be your sons and partner in life with you. 🧑‍🧑‍🧒‍🧒 Happy #FathersDay to all the Dads of every kind.. biological, step, adopter, and spiritual.👨🏻👨‍👩‍👧‍👦🫶🏼”

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