'Fireproof' adds ministry to the movies
Fire can consume or refine. The result is determined by what the fire touches.
"Fireproof"is a movie with a message: You can withstand the fire. But you have to be willing in order to be able – and what you’re made of does matter.
Erin Bethea, who plays Catherine in "Fireproof," said she hoped the movie’s message is clear to everyone who sees it.
“No situation is unfixable if you are willing to change,” she said. “You have to go back to that original commitment. You have to throw out the rest and be willing to start over.”
Bethea, in a phone interview Friday afternoon, said her first scene with Kirk Cameron was by far the hardest, but also her favorite.
After years of stage acting and entertaining at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Bethea was in her first scene as a leading lady opposite Kirk Cameron – a former teen star on television’s "Growing Pains"who has spent the latter portions of his career acting in movies with overtly Christian themes and storylines.
Bethea’s character (Catherine) was sick in bed after struggling through what seemed to be the end of her on-screen marriage to Cameron’s character (Caleb) – who had recently dedicated his life to Christ and began behaving in ways she could not comprehend.
She told him his actions weren’t normal. He answered with Bethea’s favorite line from the movie, “Welcome to the new normal.”
“More people need to adopt that philosophy,” she said.
Bethea knew the ministry of "Fireproof"would be strong. But the career opportunity presented to her wouldn’t be realized until the movie’s release.
The third time was indeed the charm for Sherwood Pictures. The first two movies from this group of volunteers based out of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., had a certain degree of success. "Flywheel" was the initial production, and it met with some success. "Facing the Giants" cost $100,000 to produce and took in more than $10 million over the last few years.
"Fireproof"smoked both of those in the first two weeks of release. The movie was No. 4 at the box office its first week and remained in the top 10 in week two. It has taken in more than $13 million, and ticket sales are still going strong in its third weekend.
“It has been a little strange, going from a performer at Disney World to the leading lady in the No. 4 movie in America,” said Bethea, who hopes to act in both Christian and non-Christian themed movies in the future. “Stage and performance will always be a part of me. But someday I hope to be a light in a dark place … a role model for young women as an actress in Hollywood who won’t demoralize herself.”
The producers of "Fireproof" never meant for the movie to be a “magic pill” to cure relationship problems. But it can be a first step.
“We hope everyone enjoys the movie, that they are entertained,” she said. “But beyond that we hope to challenge people that their current situation isn’t a life sentence. Change is possible.”
The movie is almost indescribable. The story is strong and is woven intricately throughout the movie. But emotional and high-energy action scenes are broken up by perfectly timed and engaging comic relief that left many teary eyed audience members giggling.
“The subject matter is heavy … intense,” Bethea said. “The humor that permeates the movie shows the development of the Kendrick brothers (Alex and Stephen) as screenwriters.”
A preacher’s kid, Bethea is still single in her mid-twenties. Some critics have taken umbrage with casting a single woman in the role of a wife in a difficult relationship.
“That’s funny to me, because no one is taking issue with Kirk (Cameron) because he’s never been a firefighter,” Bethea laughed.
Another criticism of the film is that it is “too preachy.”
Bethea isn’t too concerned with that complaint either.
“We certainly don’t want anyone put off by the message,” she said. “But we are going to present the gospel openly.”
Bethea doesn’t know the future of Sherwood Pictures or her future role with the production group.
“We can go only as far as God takes us,” she said. “We make the movies we are supposed to make. I think several recent examples show a real desire in the faith community for movies that they can be proud to watch and recommend to friends.”
She said there were a couple matters of symbolism that moviegoers shouldn’t miss. In a scene where she goes to a medical supply store, other businesses’ signs are seen. One, Bobby Lee Dukes Lollipop Shop, is from "Facing the Giants." The other, The Biscuit Barn, is from "Flywheel."
She also enjoyed a scene that prominently features “God’s Wrath” hot sauce. One character escapes “God’s Wrath,” while the other feels the consequences because of his hubris.
But the one thing that Bethea wants everyone to catch is that real love is not emotional.
“Real love isn’t about butterflies and blue skies,” she said. “Real love holds on through the toughest times and helps us survive.”