My friend and fellow critic Christian Toto has some good advice for anyone thinking of being a movie blogger. He knows what he’s talking about — he’s one of the best. I love his emphasis on focus and finding a unique take, especially his example. Who else has a list of actor comb-overs?
Kevin Sorbo (Hercules and Andromeda) stars in a new movie, “What If…” as Ben Walker, a man who gets the chance to see what his life would have been like if he had taken another path. In the tradition of “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Walker meets an angel (“Cheers'” John Ratzenberger) who lets him see the effect of the choices he has made and learn some lessons about what really matters. I spoke to him about the audience for faith-inspired films, what it was like to deliver the two sermons in the movie, and his award-winning foundation, A World Fit for Kids, which creates after-school programs to promote fitness, work skills, and academic achievement.
How did you become involved with this project?
[Director] Dallas Jenkins is a friend of mine. Our kids are the same ages and play together. He asked me to look at the script. I read it, fell in love with it immediately. He said, “I’m looking for the lead.” I said, “You’re looking at him! I’d love to do this, it’s awesome.” It came together very quickly and we were shooting in a month.
I loved your interaction with Kristy Swanson (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), who plays your wife.
We had a very good chemistry together. It was a good group of people and the crew was excellent. We shot it in three weeks. I wish we had had five or six. The economy is such a weapon it affects everything no matter what business you’re in right now and you have to make adjustments.
And yet I was very impressed with the quality of the production values in the film.
A lot of times in the past faith-based movies the acting, the script, the look were not all they could be. With the success of movies like “Facing Giants and “Fireproof” and especially “The Blind Side,” it’s opened up a whole new world, realizing that there’s a huge under-served market out there. The vast majority of the people in this country are people of faith. To ignore that and put out the stuff that Hollywood loves to put out — it’s kind of nice to see movies being made and I hope all the people who gripe about these kinds of movies not being made will go see this one, spread the word, and fill up the seats. We’re small, we’re independent, and we rely on word of mouth.
You have quite a character arc in the film and even the way you stand and move seems to change as your character starts to see and feel things differently.
It happened organically through the script. It was a natural slide to go from the cockiness and arrogance of the guy at the beginning, from the words on the page.
There’s a wonderful contrast between the two sermons your character has to deliver, one when he is really clueless and another when he is beginning to feel his connection to a calling.
And both were shot on the same day! They were just so funny, so well-written. The second one had a sense of humor to it, too. For me as an actor it was a huge workout. I’m in almost every scene in the movie. It was a challenge for me. I had to use some muscles I didn’t have to use before.
What roles do you enjoy most?
I get a lot of scripts. I started my own production company two years ago. There’s a lot of variety, thrillers, dramas, a mixture. Coming up I play a Scrooge type of character, a comedy, and then play the father of a young boy who has a brain tumor, a very touching heart-felt story, and then a period piece.
Tell me about your foundation.
It’s A World Fit for Kids. We support after-school programs to give kids the training, tools and support they need to achieve their goals and lead fit and fulfilling lives, and were recently recognized by Governor Schwarzenegger recognized us as a statewide model for preventing childhood obesity.
What do you want people to know about the film?
Everybody has a “what if” in their life. This will strike a chord. It could be a job, a relationship. We all have regrets about what we have done or shouldn’t have done. It’s a movie about forgiveness and redemption no matter where you are in your life.
There’s a lot of great laughs, a lot of moments to tug at your heartstrings. We had a premiere in Chicago with 3600 people and we turned 1000 away. At the end people gave us a standing ovation, applauding and crying. It’s a wonderful movie. And the whole family can see it.
Congrats to all the smarties who know their JR movies!
1. One thing she can’t do is sing very well. What all-star movie had her try a sad love song? “Everyone Says I Love You”
2. Which of her movies was originally titled “$3000?” “Pretty Woman”
3. In which movie does she play a military officer with a child? “Valentine’s Day”
4. In which movie does she rehearse for playing a military officer with a child? “Notting Hill”
5. She is usually cast in contemporary roles. But in which movie did she play a 19th century housemaid? “Mary Reilly”
6. Name two movies where she played a movie star and one where she played a movie star’s sister. She was a movie star in “Notting Hill” and “Full Frontal” and a movie star’s sister in “America’s Sweethearts.”
7. In which movie did she describe her “signature colors?” “Steel Magnolias” and I think they were blush and bashful!
8. She played characters in which two movies based on classic children’s stories? “Charlotte’s Web” and “Hook”
9. In which movie was she kidnapped? “The Mexican” (by James Gandofini!)
10. In which two movies did she play a photographer? “Step-Mom” and “Closer”
Thanks for playing!