In 1994, Paul LaLonde served as executive producer of Left Behind, which was intended to be used as a documentary to those people “left behind” after the biblical rapture. Included in the cast was Hal Lindsey who was there to explain what had happened. In 2000, LaLonde helped produce the original Left Behind movie that starred Kirk Cameron. Now in 2014, he is producing yet another version of the movie, this time starring Nicolas Cage. In-between these dates, LaLonde has produced over eight other end-of-the-world features. The end times are a big deal to this guy, but why make the remake?
The original Left Behind, and its sequels, had a very limited budget and were sent straight to DVD. “The first book in the Left Behind series is really quite an enormous book and we tried to do the whole book in one movie. And it really didn’t do justice to, especially to the rapture but also to the whole book because there was no time to get to know the characters. And there was no time to really appreciate the enormity of the event,” says LaLonde during a recent press conference. “Basically the [new] movie is based on, you know, 25 pages of the first book, so it’s really a remake of about three minutes of the first movie.”
LaLonde had no intention of making another low budget movie so the he stepped up his game with A-list talent cast and crew. The fairly small cast includes Nicolas Cage as pilot Rayford Steele, Lea Thompson (who is currently a contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars) as his Christian wife Irene, Cassi Thomson as their daughter, Nicky Whelan as Hattie, the stewardess he is having an affair with and Jordin Sparks as a young mother trying to outrun her troubles at home. LaLonde also chose Vic Armstrong to direct the thing. “If you go on IMDB and look up Vic Armstrong, you’ll, you’ll think he’s faking his resume. He’s been part of some of the biggest movies that there are,” says LaLonde. “He’s exactly what the movie needed and he didn’t disappoint me.”
Armstrong is better known as a stunt director, so this movie was a different experience for him. “As a stunt director, you’re still telling stories. In some ways I think it’s even harder because you’re trying to tell stories with mime language if you’d like,” says Armstrong. “The only reason stunts are in a movie are to progress the storyline and the movie itself so you do have to adhere to storylines…If you get a good script it’s very, very easy.”
“I was absolutely thrilled when I read this script,” says Armstrong. “Seeing how character-driven it was and what a fabulous story-line it had was a thrill to me. When I first met Paul, the first thing I said to him was, ‘Well I’ll tell you what, I love the script so much I can’t see a word in it I’d like to change.’ [It’s an] adventure story full of wonderful characters, fabulous performances and a great look. You still have the other side of it, you have the rapture. You have the believers, you have the followers and I felt very conscience of the fact that they were trusting me to deliver what they wanted to see as well.”
Not only was LaLonde thrilled to be working with Armstrong, but so was Nicolas Cage. “I’m very comfortable working with Vic. I got to spend quite a bit of time with him on another movie that we made, called Season of the Witch. And it was a good experience and I thought that he directed me to a good performance and something that I was very proud of and wanted to work with him again,” says Cage. As for his own reasons for wanting to do a faith-based film, Cage was a little more mysterious.
“If you look at my filmography, there’s no secret to the fact that I am drawn to movies that aren’t afraid to take on spiritual themes. And you know, without going into my own personal, you know, spirituality which is very sacred to me and not something that I think is, you know for public consumption or to be put on or in the media but, but I like to let my work speak for me. I like to find movies that allow me to explore these inner or outer worlds through the work without having to really talk too much about it.”
Fair enough. As for some of the other actors, here is what they had to say about the matter:
Cassi Thomson, who plays Chloe Steele: “When I read [the script] it was very much character-driven, which is something you don’t really see that often in a movie that has so much action. It is also is a very strong female character which unfortunately aren’t that many of, nowadays. I honestly thought I would never book it because I’m not a big A-Lister name. Luckily they gave me a chance to be a part of something that was one of, really the most memorable times of my life. And, you know, I had always wanted to do a film like this. And it just, it was great. I mean Vic was great. Nicolas Cage was great. Everybody was really amazing to work with.”
Jordin Sparks, who plays Shasta: “It was really interesting for me because, I was like; I’ve never played a mother before. Shasta’s is trying to take her daughter to a safer place, and in her head that’s what she thinks she’s doing. They’re not going through great things at the moment so she’s taking her daughter and she’s just very leery of everybody on the plane. ..She kind of thinks everything is a conspiracy, that everyone’s out to get her. When I was younger, I read all of the Left Behind teen series and I just remember being, you know, so affected by the thought of ‘Wow, what if, what if my closest friends just disappeared one day. What if they just weren’t here?’ It was just really interesting and as a kid that’s definitely very scary. It’s something that’s like, ‘Ah well, okay, that’s very scary. 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, that could actually happen.’
Nicolas Cage, who plays Rayford: “If there’s anything for me, I want that to come across that people realize [that]we all make mistakes but in a moment of crisis what we really want, what we really go to is the love we have for our families. And that’s what pulled me into this project. That, and also how you make such an extraordinary set of circumstances authentic and how do you make that real and that was a tremendous challenge for all of the actors… I’ve always been attracted to movies that aren’t afraid to venture into the unknown.”
Nicky Whelan, who plays Hatti: “I hadn’t read the books before I had started filming. I wasn’t familiar with this story. I just read this cool action-packed movie with great cast in it, and then sort of learned more about it as I got more involved…It’s clearly obvious why [Hatti] doesn’t get taken in the rapture. However, Vic and I did discuss making this character as human as possible…It was quite a challenge. I’ve got to be honest because, there was nothing to build from or anywhere to go from and we really had to be careful with Hattie. I really think that we brought it to life, and so I hope that everyone sees that, and enjoys it.”
Left Behind opens in theaters everywhere October 3, 2014. Click here to watch the film’s preview.