The Kirk Cameron Interview
- Wednesday, March 21, 2001
Matt: Was there a part of you that was a little leery about starring in Left Behind because it is a Christian movie?
Kirk: Not really. I mean, obviously, there is a strong point of view that this story was told from, and there's gonna be a lot of people who don't agree with it or don't like it, but there's also no denying the fact that millions and millions of people are interested and intrigued by it. The books themselves have sold almost 30 million copies, which is a huge amount of books to sell, so that clearly tells everyone that people are interested, and they're certainly gonna want to see it on a movie screen.
Matt: Were you into the fact that you wanted it to be biblically accurate or did you not really worry about that?
Kirk: For me, if I were to do a movie, especially about the Bible, it's very important to me that it is accurate. While none of us are prophets or have crystal balls that can tell exactly how the rapture is gonna happen, I think these guys did an excellent job of bringing these biblical events to the book and then ultimately to the movie.
Matt: When it comes to something of a biblical nature, people of faith have definite expectations. Did those expectations concern you, going in to the making of this?
Kirk: I had my own set of concerns that it was biblically accurate, and obviously, I knew there was gonna be other people who shared those concerns, but they weren't any greater than my own concerns, because this is really important to me as well. I knew that there were gonna be a lot of expectations of my character, you know, who was gonna play Buck Williams before anyone knew. Was it gonna be a Christian, or does it not have to be a Christian? I had some big shoes to fill, so when I was asked to play Buck, I was like, this is a pretty big role and really important, and a lot of people are gonna be watching this, and so I really took it pretty seriously.
Matt: Was there something that was added to the role because you're playing Buck and you're a Christian?
Kirk: Oh, definitely. It was really important to the producers that whoever was playing the role was a Christian, because I don't know if you've seen the movie or not, but there's a scene in there where Buck is there in the bathroom, and he really prays for the first time, and he turns his heart to God, and that's just not something you can fake real well. If you don't know what that's about, and you've never experienced that in your own life, then it's not about saying the right words or doing some ritualistic thing. It's about genuinely turning your heart to God. The Bible tells us that we can't do that without God drawing us to Himself, so I don't think that is something you can fake very well. I think people would be able to tell, so for me to be able to draw on my own personal experience is a help.
Matt: So, how long have you been a follower of Christ?
Kirk: About 13 years, when I was about 17 or 18.
Matt: The only complaint I've heard about the movie is that the name "Jesus" was never mentioned. Was that intentional, because it was trying to draw people from outside the church, or was that something that wasn't planned either way?
Kirk: Well, it's true. Ultimately we need to be drawn to the name of Jesus. We can't try to skirt around that, and the movie is not trying to do that, but there's actually a part of the movie that Pastor Billings leaves a tape for everyone to watch and he says, "You're wondering where your loved ones have gone - They haven't been stashed away by aliens, but they have been taken by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when he descended from the heaven with a shout and he rose to meet them in the air." Then he quoted 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, which has Jesus all over it, so it is in there. He says it clearly that Jesus says it himself.
Matt: Are you excited about the fact that Left Behind is being used as an evangelical tool?
Kirk: I think it is a really effective tool, but just like any tool, it is no substitute for the Word itself. The Bible itself and genuine, honest, Christian friends to talk about what the movie is about. We are not expecting that people walk into this movie and come out saying, "I need to be saved, and I know just how to do that, and I know everything there is to know about how to become a Christian." That's really not what we're trying to do. Really, where the real important work is gonna be done is after people have watched the movie with their friends and family; they're gonna have the opportunity to ask them, "What did you think about the movie, what did you think about this or what did you think about that? Do you think that something like this could happen and if it did would you be left behind or do you have things right with God right now?" It's a springboard into conversations to hopefully get them to ask some honest questions and examine their own heart. I'm hoping that it exposes some of the phony faith in the church. There's a lot of people who call themselves Christians in the church, who may be watching this and relating to Pastor Bruce Barnes, who says, "You know, God, I preached your message all week and everyone bought it except you. I was a fake and a phony." There are a lot of people I think this will ring true with.
Matt: Did you read the books before or is this something you just found out about as you were going through the process.
Kirk: I had not read the books before I did the movie. The way that it started was a friend gave us the first four books in the series, and my wife finished the very first one about 3 a.m., and she woke me up and said, "Kirk, this is such a great book, and you have to read this." She said, "They have to turn this into a movie, and I would love to play the role of Hattie." About a week later, I got a phone call from the producers of this new movie called Left Behind and I said, "Honey, isn't this that movie that you were talking about?" She said yes, and they sent over the script and it was great. So they called us up and said, "We'd like for Kirk to play Buck and Chelsea to play Hattie."
Matt: You brought up Chelsea. Is it hard working with your wife, or is it just fun, because you've done it before?
Kirk: We met working on Growing Pains, and we have had the chance to work on a lot together. We're getting better and better at it, and we have a lot of fun. So whenever we find a project that has two great roles in the same project, then that works out great, because then we can sort of go into the project as a family.
Matt: Was there pressure to shed the Mike Seaver image?
Kirk: Hey, when I see me on TV I think of Mike. Well, that was definitely a big challenge, and we really wanted to stay away from Mike, but you know, how much can I stay from Mike? Kirk Cameron, Mike Seaver and Buck Williams: we all look alike. But, I really think that after a couple of minutes of watching it, you're not thinking "Mike Seaver."
Matt: Well, I've seen the movie and I agree.
Kirk: You're in the middle of the Israeli desert, bombs are going off, the antichrist is pointing a gun at someone, I mean it's just like we're not in Growing Pains land anymore.
Matt: Will you star in the sequel?
Kirk: I hope so. We haven't started any serious conversations about the sequel yet; other than we know it will start later on this year.
Matt: What do you think works best when trying to minister to people outside the church walls? Is there something in the entertainment industry that we can do to get the message of Christ out, but not make it so churchy that they can't relate to it?
Kirk: I think about that all the time as a Christian. Is simply making a movie like Left Behind and more like that -- is that what the Lord needs for us to do for all the people who are gonna come to Christ to come to Christ? I think that ultimately that's not all there is left to do. I think Left Behind is great, but it's really important to find really creative ways to get the gospel out into the culture so that people can start thinking about it and talking about it with people. Not just keeping it inside the walls of the church, because a lot of people just aren't gonna go there. The early Christians went out to the street corners and the town squares there, and into hostile places where people weren't expecting to hear the gospel, but that's where they heard it, so people started to think about it and talk about it. So, I think it's great to be doing it through the media, but ultimately, we have to remember that if the culture is gonna change, it's gonna change one heart at a time. We have to be prepared to invest ourselves in the lives of other people and talk with them about the things that are going on in their life. It's not just, "Hey, go see this movie, and if you wanna become a Christian call me." It's "Hey, come see this movie with me, and after it's over tell me what you think, because I care about you and I think this is real and I'd like to talk with you about how you feel about it." Getting involved in peoples lives and being there for them, you know being salt and light in the world, not just making a good movie and thinking that is gonna take care of it all.
Matt: Kirk, having grown up in the entertainment industry, how is it different working in this Christian realm, as opposed to what you grew up in?
Kirk: Well, I don't like to make this big distinction between Christian filmmaking and secular movie making, because there are just as many non-Christians in the walls of the church as there are Christians. I think that people will relate to this character, Bruce Barnes, because I think that's really common. So, my goal is to make great movies, and if the next movie or the next TV show I make is just simply good, clean entertainment, then I think that is great, because, ultimately, it provides a platform to be able to go out and show the gospel to people in other ways through interviews and public speaking. And if the sequel for Left Behind is the next project that I do, that would be great, too, and again it's not intended for this small, exclusive audience of just Christians. It's intended for people who go to church, people who don't go to church, people who believe in the Lord, and people who don't. I think that we need to try to stop separating the church from the world culture so much, and remember that everybody needs to be thinking about these things, people in and outside the church.
Matt: So when it comes down to it, do you feel Left Behind is entertainment or ministry?
Kirk: It's both. Left Behind is not trying to hide the fact that it's trying to entertain; I mean, that's why people are going to see it. They wanna go see a good film; they think they're going to see a great apocalyptic thriller. They wanna be on the edge of their seats and be taken for a great ride, and that's what they're gonna get when they go see this movie. The great part about this is that they're gonna get a little bit more than that. It's just like that movie, Remember the Titans, that is a movie for everyone to see, not just people with a certain racial bias. It's certainly not a message movie that is trying to indoctrinate people into thinking a certain way. It's a great story and a great movie, and everyone is gonna love it, but it leaves you with a little more than just a story about a football team. It makes you start thinking about issues that impact your life, and it makes you look into your own heart and examine your own life. That's what we hope Left Behind will do, too. So it'll be entertaining, but it'll also minister to people in terms of causing them to examine what's in their hearts.
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