Nearly seven years have gone by since the unveiling of Mel Gibson’s landmark “The Passion of the Christ” — which wound up making $611 million in wordwide box office, and caused a scramble toward religious themes by Hollywood moviemakers. Good and not-so-good, successful and not-so-successful films in the genre have come and gone since then, along with the torturously troubled Gibson’s reputation. So where does the industry stand today? It’s a mixed bag to hear filmmaker Lee Stanley tell it.
Stanley’s outstanding memoir, “Faith in the Land of Make-Believe” is just about to hit stores. It’s the multiple Emmy-winner’s personal saga of redemption and then so much more, or, as he’s subtitled it, “What God Can Do… Even in Hollywood.”
Stanley finds that these days, “You hear a lot about faith-based films. I have friends that went to Sundance, and there was a lot of talk about them there, but then you look at some of these movies and realize, ‘This is gross and disgusting.’ And I’m not a prude by any means, which you see in my book,'” notes Stanley, whose credits range from the award-winning “Desperate Passage” documentary, in which he took violent juvenile offenders on a breathtaking sailing trip, to the big screen “Gridiron Gang” starring Dwayne Johnson.
There are plenty of this sort of wolf-in-lamb’s clothing movies, if you will, heading toward screens, to hear him tell it. “I was speaking with an executive a couple of weeks ago, and he said, ‘No matter what kind of film you’re doing, the next one has to push the edge of the envelope. It’s the only way you’re going to get anything made.'”
Stanley insists the only pushing he’s going to do is toward quality. He has his next film in his sites, but “I will not do it with a studio. I’ve got to have creative control.” The project, “Gompy,” is about a 10-year-old boy who can’t accept that his grandfather has died, and who runs away to go looking for him — and finds him. Or, that is, he finds a look-alike. At this point, Stanley has a couple of Johnson-level stars he doesn’t want to name interested in the unusual role.
Whatever happens, it’s a time of celebration for Stanley, who stresses that he’s hoping his book inspires others to find and pursue their God-given purposes. This past weekend, he marked his anniversary as two years cancer free.