Ray Liotta read the movie script, and his heart melted. The actor from “Goodfellas” and “Field of Dreams” connected deeply with “The Identical,” a movie executive produced by veteran music man Yochanan Marcellino and CEO of City of Peace Films.
Liotta plays evangelist Reese Wade, who adopts a son with his wife Louise (Ashley Judd). The biological parents were faced with the grim prospect that they couldn’t afford to raise twin boys during the Great Depression of 1936. Feeling led by the Lord, William and Helen Hemsley (played by Brian Geraghty and Amanda Crew) gave Wade one of his sons, since the pastor’s wife couldn’t conceive. The film follows the lives of the two brothers Ryan Wade and Drexel Hemsley (both played by newcomer Blake Rayne) and spans from the Depression to the 1970’s. Hemsley reaches music stardom, while the adoptive son, Ryan Wade works to find acceptance with his father who believes he’s called to the ministry.
A story of adoption resonated with Liotta, says, Marcellino because the actor was adopted at the age of six.
“He was so touched with this script that he cried and he was deeply moved that my son Dustin Marcellino (director) would cast him as a preacher.”
Liotta still has that tough guy exterior. The goal was to get the fire of “Good Fellas" with the compassion of “Field of Dreams”. Combining these elements with a preacher was the right mix.
There was little apprehension in approaching the star--it’s about trusting a big God.
“In my life it’s about trusting the Lord in everything we do. Where His vision is, His provision is, and He provided.”
Another provision was Seth Green, who joins the cast as Dino, a good friend of Ryan. Originally Dino was written with more comedic undertones. But Green wanted more depth of character and more drama to his role.
“We went back and rewrote the script. We rewrote his character and made it even more dramatic. And when he got the rewrite, he was on board,” Marcellino says. Additionally, Green could play drums and was in a band in high school, perfect for his part. After enlisting a drum coach, Green became real tight after several lessons, spinning sticks and picking up where he left off to Marcellino’s amazement.
His actors are not the only source of encouragement.
“Michael Landon Jr. was a great inspiration to me doing this film, even though I never met him personally. I watched every “The Little House on the Prairie” with my daughter when she was growing up [Later episodes were directed by Michael Landon, Sr.]. Then, I watched all the “Love Comes Softly” series that Michael Landon Jr. did and studied as they went along and what made that kind of thing work,” Marcellino says before the screening in Nashville.
“He [Landon] brought a message of faith in a real life context. His stuff is not religious. That’s exactly what I’ve done with “The Identical”.
Marcellino also found his leading lady from “Love Comes Softly”.
Known for her work with Michael Landon, Jr., Marcellino was sold on Erin Cottrell as his leading lady. Cottrell plays the wife of Ryan Wade.
“I wanted that kind of heart that Michael Landon, Jr. found in “Love Comes Softly”. I was able to connect with Erin and brought her aboard as our leading lady. She has done a knock down job on “The Identical”.
Elements that seems crucial for faith-inspired films is a solid story, good quality, and transparency.
“We want to bring films with a redeeming value to the world. One of the ways you do that is live where people are living. We have seen that with the reaction that we had from Hollywood. We’ve seen this in the casting situation in landing Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd, Joey Pantoliano and Seth Green. We have a Hollywood first rate team of actors and actresses who were all blown away by the faith aspect of real life in this film.”
“The Identical” is due out in theaters this fall.