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Pop Culture From A Spiritual Point of View

May 24, 2003
Greetings from David Bruce, Web Master

This page was last updated October 10, 2003

Main Topic:


Director of Bruce Almighty


Director of Bruce Almighty

Review -click here
Trailers, Photos -click here
About this Film -click here
About the Cast -click here
About the Filmmakers -click here
Spiritual Connections -click here
Forum -click here

Is it difficult to be a Christian Director in Hollywood?
What kind of faith does Jim Carrey have?
How can you direct bedroom scenes as a person of faith?
What about the language problem?
What is a spiritual film?

ABOUT THE INTERVIEW: Director Tom Shadyac is a committed Christian. This is an interview with him by a group of Christian film reviewers. Notice how these reviewers connect appropriateness to what's acceptable for children. (I wonder if they would rate an Adult Bible Study by the same standard?) None of the reviewers ask questions about the art of crafting a film. And sadly, they do not spend much time discussing the wonderful and positive theology in this film. Rather they confine themselves to negative aspects. Still, they all really enjoyed Bruce Almighty and hope it does well. Additionally, it's wonderful to see the beginnings of dialogue between Hollywood and people of faith.

Click to enlargeA SHORT BIO: Tom Shadyac (Director/Producer) began his directing career with Jim Carrey's breakout hit Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in 1994 and followed it with the smash hit The Nutty Professor, which starred Eddie Murphy, and then re-teamed with Carrey and Grazer for the 1997 sensation Liar Liar. More recently, Shadyac directed Robin Williams in the Golden Globe-nominated Patch Adams, yet another big hit, this time successfully blending comedy and drama. He also executive-produced Murphy's popular return in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, and directed Kevin Costner in the supernatural drama Dragonfly. Currently, he serves as executive producer on ABC's 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

Shadyac formed Shady Acres Entertainment, a production company based at Universal Pictures, which is currently developing several films in addition to television projects.

Click to enlargeTHE INTERVIEW (May 2003)

Shadyac: Okay, let's all get serious and ask religious questions.

Question: Who made the decision to have Bruce and Grace cohabitating without marriage? Is that something you had to live with?

Shadyac: Who made the decision? Or, do you want to say, "Who made the bad decision?" (Laughs)

Question: Did you pretty much have to live with that? Why the decision?

Shadyac: Why the decision? Well, Bruce really wasn't grown up. You know, we don't start with perfect people in movies. We start with imperfect people, and then they have to go on a journey. Let's read the Bible and see how many people cohabitated and did imperfect things. There is shadow in the movie, and the shadow helps the light. So we are not espousing any life style. We are not telling people, "Now this is how to live!" We were telling a story. And Bruce wasn't grown up enough. He didn't appreciate anything in his life. I think, when you get married you have to appreciate your life and the partner that you are with. And Bruce wasn't mature enough. It was a big step for him. And that's why the movie ended up where it ended up. It was a choice, you know, a choice. (Pause, then with gusto and a smile) Do you forgive me?

(Audience laughs)

Question: Now that makes sense. I laughed so hard. I had not laughed that hard since I was a kid at camp. And I cried. I want everyone to see this movie. I came away so blown away by the emotion. And that frustrates me because we have to tell our readers "Should they take their kids to see this film?" And, that frustrates me because I want everybody to see this movie. I was wondering why the bedroom (scene) had to happen?

Shadyac: Yes, well again, it happens because we are storytellers. And as storytellers we are dealing with human actors, people, writers, characters. And humans, as you know, tend to make mistakes. I do not know if anyone in this group realizes it, people curse. (With feeling) They curse! And obviously it is up to parents when parents introduce that reality to their children. And they are going to get that reality at some point or another. So, parents can make choices. Our character, for example, says a curse word. And that was our choice, and it was the lowest part of this character's evolution, you know. He would not be proud of it at the end of the movie. He would not be espousing it. He makes mistakes.

You know, I have been going to church since I was a babe. And I go to church today. And I think one of the challenges of our church, and churchgoers in general, is to accept humanity as it is. We have people in churches acting out, because they doesn't accept the whole human being. They deny that we are sexual human beings. Or, that we can be angry. I, as a filmmaker, am not going to deny that. I am going to embrace that. I think it's important to embrace the whole of humanity, and to say we are imperfect. By the standards of most Christians today you could not read your Bible. I mean, the Bible is chalk full of some pretty racy stuff, folks. There's a lot, a lot, a lot of sexual impropriety. There is violence -- all kinds of things. It's not about a moment. It's about the entire journey. If the Bible had not ended where it ended, it would be a pretty downer of a book. It ends with redemption. So, if you take one sentence out of the Bible, like with violence or sex, and you just focus on that sentence, you would not want to go near the Bible. But, if you look at the Bible as a whole, it's redemptive and beautiful and it's God's love story to mankind.

And this (film) is our love story in our dealing with God's love. It must deal with imperfection. There is a line that I cut from the movie where God is showing Bruce some footage of Lance Armstrong. As you know, Lance had cancer and overcame it. To paint a picture like that you've got to use some dark colors. The most powerful stories we tell are (about) people who come from dark colors. People who have been challenged by addictions, or abuse. And to overcome that is really the light overcoming the darkness. Without the darkness you have lost (both) humanity and the power of the light. (Pause and then loudly) AMEN!

Audience: Hallelujah! (Laughter)

Question: I am interested in the spirituality that underlines the whole movie. God goes to a lot trouble to teach this young man to pray. How did God teach you to pray?

Shadyac: He went through a lot of trouble, I can tell you that. The movie is very personal to me, because I have been the guy on the ground. Struggling. "God, why don't you answer this prayer?" I could not get work ten years ago. I couldn't get arrested. And ahh, I got an opportunity to direct She's the Sheriff. And I thought for sure it was going to come through, but it didn't. And I was screaming at the Man, the Creative Force, "Why, why, why?" Well, now in hindsight you can see why. I was being prepared. I was growing up. I was learning to be stronger. To die to my own way, and to embrace the Divine way. I think God goes through a lot of trouble with most of us, because we are stubborn, we are pestilent, we need a lot of help. There is a line in the movie that is significant to me -- when Bruce tells God "I just gave everyone what they wanted." And God says, "Since when does anyone have a clue about what they want?" We think we want the house, the car, this certain relationship. We have no idea what we really want. What we really need is freedom, to be loved, and to love. It is often quite a journey getting us to that point.

Question: There is a line in the movie where God says, "Everyone's problem is that they keep on looking up."

Shadyac: Yes, yes. And here comes the big controversy. Let's stir the pot. (Laughter from audience) The key word in that sentence is "you keep looking up." I think looking up is essential. Humility and looking to God, looking to this Divine Creative Force, is essential. Because I believe it's a reality. It's in your blood, it's in your DNA and it's in mine. And our relationship with that Divine Force is essential. However, to keep looking up means that we depend on God to do everything for us. There is a story about a nun who went to God and said, "Why, God, don't you do something about the people that are hungry and sick?" And God said, "I did, I made you."

Right here (points to self) is where I need to look for God. There is a reason why Jesus went up. (Otherwise) he could be right here. Jesus could be right here. He could be a producer. But he decided, I think in my own thinking anyway, to go up and leave us as the hands, his hands -- as his feet, as his heart, as his expressions. So the key words there are "keep looking up." I hope people will look up, but don't just keep looking up.

Question: Is there significance to this incarnation of the guy who gets divine powers? Is there any connection there?

Shadyac: The incarnation? Like is there a subtle message about the incarnation? Meaning Jesus is the incarnation? I think there are subtle messages all over this movie. And you can take them for what you will, where you are standing in your particular spiritual walk. I accidentally run into them, like with the Father, Son and Holly Ghost analogies. Morgan is three guys in the movie. Morgan is the electrician, the janitor, and the boss. Father, Son, Holy Ghost -- kind of. Many were intentional and many were just coincidental -- which is one of my favorite sayings, "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."

We purposely did not want to be dogmatic in this movie, folks. And I think Jesus purposely did not want to be dogmatic. Jesus was a storyteller. He didn't get into a lot of dogma when he told the story of Prodigal Son, or the Three Virgins -- or was it Ten Virgins? I forget. Lots of virgins in those days, anyways. But, he purposely did not get dogmatic. He was a very inclusive soul. And we are telling a parable here. And dogma -- we did not want to divide with dogma. To be inclusive in our storytelling.

Question: You are a Christian you are around people in Hollywood that have been burnt by Christians. They feel like Christians don't get it -- that Christians are harsh and so (they feel) they can't go to church. What would you tell them, to make a difference in Hollywood?

Shadyac: Say that again, because I was...

Question: To touch folks who are lost, to touch people in Hollywood. To be able to bridge the gap between the entertainment industry and the church.

Shadyac: Well, first I think that the entertainment industry can be vilified, and we are just like everyone else. We are doing the best that we can. And we are imperfect. You know, I have been on a walk myself. And I have been part of the judgmental sect of society. So, I really understand it. You want the best for someone. You want them to see the light. But that line that you set is so important. And I think it is so important for Christians to embrace -- see things through God's eyes. How does God see that Hollywood person who is imperfect -- who may not be walking the cleanest walk right now? God sees them as beautiful, and full of potential, and full of light. And who knows, what Christian knows, what God is doing in that person's life? It could be on that person's deathbed that they get it. And that's enough, because God doesn't deal in karos -- you know, in chronological time. He deals in cronos, which is the quality of time. A moment can be eternity. I think we Christians, we people who "have seen the light," have to get off our judgmental high thrones. I understand why -- because you want everyone to have the light. But God is working in each life, individually, independently, dependently. Allow people to go on their own imperfect journey. He will make it perfect. He is God. Okay? I think too often we try to be God. I hope that the Christian community, the very community that can embrace the movie, will give it a chance, in whole. Because -- and again I use the analogy of the Bible -- you could not even read the Bible unless you take it as a whole story. We get so dogmatic and close-minded. You lose the forest for the trees.

I speak at spirituality conferences, occasionally, and they only talk of religious movies as being ones that only deal with religion. And it's just not true. This one just happens to have God in it so it's viewed as a religious movie. But, so many movies are "spiritual or religious" movies, and people won't see them that way because there isn't a priest, nun or a minister. And they will lose the forest for the trees. Take like, and I don't want to push Scent of a Woman, but Scent of a Woman is the book of Ecclesiastes. Now, how many Chrsitians will stay away from that movie because there is cursing and he sleeps with a hooker? That is the book of Ecclesiastes. The man who says, "All is vanity, all is lost, I have no hope." It is the love of a boy, the love of a child, God incarnate through a boy, comes in and says, "I love you", and it changes his life.

We, as Christians, if we stay on our judgmental box, miss that. We miss it.

Question: One of the things I heard, before seeing the film, was "What about this raging against God?" "Isn't that blasphemous?"

Shadyac: Yes! I answer it with Elijah, Jonah and Job. And I answer it with my understanding of what God seeks in all of us, which is relationship. And relationship demands honesty. I don't think we are to live in our anger and our rage. But, to express it. Again, (this is) to express a step along the journey. Bruce raged at God. A few weeks later he got to see how silly that was. How self-indulgent that was. How self-involved that was. How un-evolved that was. But, had he not raged, had he not been honest, who knows if that step would have been taken. . God loved him all along. The soil had to soften, become porous so the seed could take root.

Question: God loves everyone. But God cannot violate free will and make them love Him. My favorite scene is when Bruce is standing there secretly chanting to Grace, "Love me, love me" in an attempt to get her to love him against her free will. Morgan Freeman says to Bruce, "Welcome to my world." I think that moment was a real window into God for the audience.

Shadyac: Yes, God cannot make you love him, that's the thing.

Question: That's high theology.

Shadyac: Yes it is! He says "How can you make someone love you if you can not effect free will." (God) says, "Welcome to my world, son."

Question: We are not puppets.

Shadyac: Yes, and because we have free will, you must introduce the shadow. That's why I say this movie is appropriate. Even in its imperfections, its moments where it dips into what some would consider the dark. It's important. It's an important part of the story telling. Because he gave us free will. And what we do with that free will is really up to us. And we make mistakes, but the light is always there pulling us towards it.

Question: I think that the people I write for would give this film a chance theologically. It would challenge teenagers. But I am wondering about the sexual content. The bedroom scene and the whole thing. And I see that as one of the more egregious things for people to get over, in order to give it a chance. And I understand what you said about starting out unmarried and ending up married, that makes a lot of sense. It would have been nice -- I don't want to speak for everybody -- if they could have been dating. If it could have been more healthy. Because there is nothing in the film that casts that relationship as a mistake. As the imperfect. There is nothing in the context of the film that makes it clear that is not a good thing to emulate. Because, you really like these characters. They are nice people. So, could you talk about that a little bit? What would you say to the parent really who really would like to sit down with a 15-16 year old who watched this movie, but is very uncomfortable with that particular part?

Shadyac: I would say, "Let's talk about Bruce Nolan. Let's talk about the choices he made at the beginning of the movie, and then lets talk" -- over a meal with the rest of the family -- "about the choices he made at the end of the movie."

Bruce Nolan has a great relationship. You are right; these are two good people -- with a huge difference. Bruce Nolan doesn't see it. He misses every sign that God gives him. The woman's name is Grace, for goodness sake. She is literally grace in his life. And he doesn't see it. He's not making (right) choices based on the ultimate evolution of his character. Ultimately loving (right) choices.

I was just talking to another reporter. She said, "I got two messages from the movie. (1) 'Be the miracle' and (2) Jim said, 'Appreciate your life.'" But to be the miracle you have to appreciate your life. I cannot be the miracle in your life if I am not healthy. I (need to realize that I) have been given means and opportunity, (that) I can share that now with you. Bruce doesn't. He doesn't. He's been given a great woman, but he doesn't see it. He's looking at all the external things in his life, to fix his life. He wants a better job, a bigger apartment. He has a mediocre job. He has a mediocre life. I would talk about that with my family. Let's look at where Bruce started in this movie.

I was just reading St. Augustine this morning. You guys should not pick up that book. If people will not go to see Bruce Almighty, then (they) shouldn't pick up Confessions by Saint Augustine. Because he lived a very worldly life -- with all the trappings of the world. And they were sexual and they were. And look a St. Paul. Don't read St. Paul, please. He killed Christians. He didn't just sleep with someone before marriage. He killed Christians. Don't look at St. Paul. We could go down the list -- of everyone (in the Bible) that these families admire, and yet these people will hold Hollywood to a different standard. They will take St. Augustine's Confessions and say, "Read it. It's a beautiful book." But Bruce Almighty isn't beautiful, because he's out of wedlock with a woman. This St. Augustine, he was a crazy man. He would take MTV and show them how to party. But he became St. Augustine. You can't have the end of the story without the beginning of the story. What is wrong with us? My goodness, we have gotten so narrow focused. We've missed the whole picture -- which God gave us -- dark and light. The light cannot be there without the dark.

Question: What they want to hear at the end: "And now will you marry me? Because what we have been doing is living in sin."

Shadyac: Yes we did, when he says, "This is my Mrs. Exclusive." And you know, who are we to get into God's head space? God said to a woman at the well, "Ah, you've been married this many times already; you say you haven't, but you been married this many times before." In God's eyes maybe Bruce and Grace were married from the first time they were together. You know, it's just a matter of society and Bruce catching up to that idea, -- that seed -- that God had placed in him all that time.

What exactly is the message of the film?

I think its personal. Each person can go to this movie and take a different message than what I have. It could be "Appreciate what you have." It could be "Be the miracle." For me the movie has always been about the true source of power. And we give power away all the time in our lives. We give all the power to God, when he says, "I am right there in you. The power is in you to make a difference. I put it there. I created you."

Really for me, at its deepest level, its about true power. True power. Not giving it away to a job, to any relationship, but looking inside and up -- then nothing can affect your true identity and your true power.

Question: What other films, besides Scent of a Woman would you see as a spiritual film.

Shadyac: Forrest Gump. Or, Being There, which is basically becoming like little children, or you can't enter the kingdom of God. There are so many movies out there.

Question: Was it difficult, as a Christian, to get your view across in this film to the stars or the writer?

Shadyac: No difference at all. Except to express -- what words to put in the mouth of God or Bruce's mouth. Jim being the star is a brother -- I mean is a brother in many ways to me. You know, comedy being our passion. But also this search, the quest, spirituality, faith, prayer, all very much a part of Jim's life.

Question: Really?

Shadyac: Oh yes, very much so. I won't speak for him; I'll let him speak. But, that's what I've observed. Steve Oedekerk, our writer, the gentleman who came in and rewrote the script --completely a man of prayer, faith, walking the God-walk in his own way. So, I do not think it was an accident that we (were) brought together to do this. So, there was a great kinship. It was not a struggle at all. It was a challenge, you know, putting words in God's mouth. I called my friends, who were ministers, or priests, or theologians, and said, "Hey we're putting words in God's mouth, help! What would you say if you were God and you could speak?" Father Ken, at where I go to church -- St Agatha's here in town -- wrote some of the best lines.

Question: Prayer was such a huge thing in the movie. What would you say about prayer?

Shadyac: I pray because it's essential for me. I have come to view prayer as a conversation. It goes back to that relationship that we talked about. I've come to believe that prayer can be so many things. I read, write and pray in the mornings. My writing, my journaling, became a form of prayer, being honest with God. "I'm frustrated with this." "What's happening here?" And, "I feel sad about that." I am a fan of Thomas Merton, and have many of his journals, and I realize that was one of his forms of prayer. We should live our lives as 24/7 forms of prayer, offering our lives completely. To me that's the goal.

Question: You obviously have a very strong belief and yet you have to deal with everybody. Do you feel you come up to a wall? Do you find people in Hollywood that stay away from you because you're a Christian?

Shadyac: No, not at all, and I will tell you why. I am making them money.

Audience laughs.

Shadyac: We are telling tales that people are being entertained by. It's called show business. As long as the business side of things adds up to a plus, they are going to give you a forum.

Review -click here
Trailers, Photos -click here
About this Film -click here
About the Cast -click here
About the Filmmakers -click here
Spiritual Connections -click here
Forum -click here

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God bless you.
David Bruce
Web Master, Hollywood Jesus.

PS To chat directly to me, e-mail: Private 2 David

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