If you ask the Academy Award-winning actor Nicolas Cage why he took the lead role of “Rayford Steele” in the upcoming biblical thriller “Left Behind,” he’ll likely cite his admiration for the script and the opportunity to work again with director Vic Armstrong.
But the Hollywood star has also revealed a more personal motivation.
“My brother, Marc, is a Christian pastor, and he was very excited about this,” Cage told reporters in a press conference touting the film’s Oct. 3 debut. “He said, you know, Nicky, you’ve really got to do this.
“I’d already wanted to make the movie because I thought it was such a great script and an opportunity again to do something challenging,” Cage continued, “but when I saw how passionate [Marc] was, I thought, well, yeah, I want to make this movie for my brother, too.”
Cage made similar comments in a Facebook video, where he says his brother “inspired me to look at [‘Left Behind’].”
Cage’s brother, Marc “The Cope” Coppola, is perhaps better known as an actor and classic rock DJ on New York City’s WAXQ-Radio.
Jordin Sparks, the “American Idol” winner who plays airplane passenger “Shasta Carvell” in the movie, told reporters she was inspired to join the cast by reading as a teen the “Left Behind” books that form the basis of the film.
“I just remember being so affected by the thought of, wow, what if my closest friends just disappeared one day? What if they just weren’t here?” she said. “As a kid that’s definitely very scary. … [You might think], ‘It’s just in a book,’ but you know, when you read the Bible and you take those things to be truth, you know it is definitely something that you can think of and go, ‘Wow, that could actually happen.'”
Sparks also said this version of “Left Behind” is delivering a message relevant to audiences of all faiths.
“The great thing about this movie … because of the people that they have brought into the film, they have the ability to have people from all over come in and see the movie whether they are believers, whether they’re non-believers,” she said. “Whether they are agnostic, whether they don’t believe in anything, it doesn’t even matter. … I think everybody can relate to imagining, ‘What if somebody that I loved wasn’t around anymore, in an instant?’ It can definitely happen, whether it is through being taken up in the Rapture or a tragic accident. Life isn’t promised to us here; tomorrow is not promised.”
Cage similarly was drawn to the movie’s universal themes.
“I was very taken by the family dynamic that plays out in this script,” Cage said. “That’s what I want … to come across, that people realize we all make mistakes, but in a moment of crisis what we really want, what we really go back to is the love we have for our families.”
He continued, “Ray Steele gets back to his true need for family through this extraordinary experience and understands the value of family and just wants to get back to that no matter what happens. Just to be able to get back on the phone with his daughter [and] say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and say, ‘I love you.’ And I think it’s as simple as that. I think that is heart-wrenching. And if you have a heart, I don’t think it’s possible to see the movie and not get a little verklempt. I mean it: There’s some very poignant, emotional moments.”
But why remake the movie at all? A series of “Left Behind” films was made in 2000 starring popular Christian actor Kirk Cameron.
In an exclusive interview with WND, the producer and writer for both “Left Behind” projects, Paul Lalonde, explained 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. “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.”
Lalonde also told WND not to expect this “Left Behind” to be a rehash of the previous film series.
“This is a very different script,” he said. “The first movie covered the entire first book in the ‘Left Behind’ series, 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 it 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.”
Learn more about the film at the “Left Behind” website.