“I just want you to be ready,” a pleading mom states in the first teaser trailer for the upcoming movie “Left Behind.”
“Ready for what?” her daughter asks.
Fans of the “Left Behind” book series, which to date has sold more than 63 million copies, know the answer to the daughter’s question is the Rapture, a great and terrifying day prophesied in the Bible when millions of Christians around the world will be taken from earth to meet with Christ. It’s a day some imagine as people simply vanishing, leaving their families, cars and even airplanes suddenly empty.
The consequent chaos of millions of people disappearing is the launching pad for a reboot of the “Left Behind” movie franchise coming to theaters Oct. 3.
If the idea of a “Left Behind” movie sounds familiar, it’s because a trio of films based on the book phenomenon was made for home video more than 10 years ago.
But this time around, “Left Behind” scriptwriter and producer Paul Lalonde tells WND, the rebooted story is aiming for a much bigger splash with bigger stars, a bigger budget and a much bigger ambition.
“We did three movies back in the early 2000s starring Kirk Cameron,” Lalonde said in an exclusive interview. “They were extremely successful but didn’t really fulfill my dream as a filmmaker.
“I’ve found Bible prophecy to be a great way to reach out to people who may not necessarily be open to evangelism, so we were excited about [the first] ‘Left Behind’ and how it did, but ever since then I wanted to do something bigger,” he continued. “I wanted to put Bible prophecy on the big screen rather than just on videos, to put the message of Bible prophecy in front of a much broader audience, and not just church-goers. That’s something we’ve tried to do with this new ‘Left Behind’ movie and this new approach of a bigger film with A-list actors.”
Among the A-list actors are the Oscar-winning Nicolas Cage, Lea Thompson of “Back to the Future,” “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks and Chad Michael Murray of “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” fame.
Lalonde also told WND not to expect this “Left Behind” to be a rehash of the previous film series – a bigger scale means a bigger vision.
“This is a very different script,” he said. “The first movie covered the entire first book in the ‘Left Behind,’ a lot of events taking place, dozens of plot points. In the first movie, we didn’t really have time to focus or to really get to know the characters because of the pace of the events. This movie, on the other hand, the entire movie, is about the day of the Rapture, so really only the first chapter of the first book. This really doesn’t bear any resemblance to the first movie.”
But as more mainstream actors find their way into the film, WND asked, did the biblical content get pushed out?
“This movie focuses on the day of the Rapture, so there really isn’t any huge opportunity for anyone to do evangelizing, but the Christian worldview is there,” Lalonde said. “The message is there. Everybody who is watching knows it was the Rapture; they know where those people went; they know why those people left and why those who were left behind were left behind, so there is no attempt to hide the biblical theme of the movie.
“Yet it’s not in-your-face evangelism, because that’s specifically something I was trying to temper for a more mainstream audience,” he continued. “We wanted to hold true to the source material of the ‘Left Behind’ books, ultimately to hold true to the Scriptures and make sure we didn’t change any of the biblical realities.
“We didn’t do a ‘Noah’ on the script,” he insisted. “What I want is when people walk out of the theater, they’re asking, ‘Is that really in the Bible?’ And unlike ‘Noah,’ the answer is yes.”
For Lalonde, the ultimate goal is to reveal how imminent and relevant biblical prophecy is to all audiences, regardless of their religious background.
“What I like about ‘Left Behind’ is that is a Bible-based movie, it’s a biblical story, it’s a true story – it just hasn’t happened yet,” Lalonde told WND. “It is a biblical movie like ‘Noah’ or ‘Son of God’ or ‘Exodus,’ but nobody’s in sandals. This is the modern world. This is today. And the great thing about the Rapture and about the immanency of the Rapture is this could literally happen this afternoon.
“So that’s a great takeaway for people,” he concluded. “We’re not talking about something that happened 4,000 years ago or 2,000 years ago; this is very relevant to today. Plus, you’ve got sort of a ‘Twilight Zone’ theme going on here with people disappearing – I think it will be very eye-opening to people who are outside of that core Christian audience to see that this is something prophesied in the Bible and worth looking into.”
Created as an action thriller with a budget of $16 million, “Left Behind” is planned as a major, nation-wide release in over 1,800 theaters Oct. 3. Learn more at the “Left Behind” website.