By Dahlia Lewis–
Actors often walk away from a film still carrying on some aspect of the characters that they play. Whether it is a certain mannerism, speech pattern, or interest, actors naturally integrate that into their own selves–widening their range to portray new characters in the future. There are even times when a character’s life of faith inspires an actor to convert to that same religion.
Angelina Jolie has a reputation of being one of the most wild and eccentric figures in Hollywood. But in recent years, the 39-year old actress has taken a more serious turn in her career by producing and directing critically-acclaimed films, including the 2014 biographical war drama, Unbroken.
The film retells the life of USA Olympian Louis “Louie” Zamperini, who survived on a raft in an ocean for 47 days and then sent to several prisoner camps during World War 2. What made Zamperini such a force of strength and perseverance during the harrowing ordeal was his hope in God, so as expected, it had to be portrayed in the film as well.
When asked about the role of faith in Unbroken, Jolie explained, “faith is very present in our film. Some we represent it with very obvious symbols, and sometimes it’s the light.”
Even in the process of shooting, she was so moved by Zamperini’s faith that she even turned to the power of prayer. As Zamperini’s daughter recalled one day on set, there was a very stormy day and they needed to finish shooting an important scene. As she explained, “Jolie said ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do, so I’ll do what Louie would do.’ She got on her knees, and she prayed for a miracle…it stopped raining.”
In one of the most epic biblical films ever made, the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ was watched by millions of believers who were refreshed in their faith in God, but it also converted unbelievers to believe in God as well. The film included a scene where Jesus and the criminal, Barabbas, were presented to a crowd, and as Jewish custom, the governor Pilate was required to release one of them by popular acclaim. And as depicted by the four gospels of the Bible, Barabbas, was ultimately set free. Pedro Sarubbi, who portrayed the criminal, formerly had no religion, but his experience on set and learning about biblical history quickly grew his faith.
He states, “I am not embarrassed to say that during the filming I had a conversion. All of the actors who took part changed a little bit after this experience, but I have learned much more from the film than from any conference.”
Furthermore, the conversion coincides with his own personal journey to discover his faith. Sarubbi explains, “I have done extensive anthropological research, as a man and as an actor. I have been instructed in the martial arts…I lived in a Tibetan monastery for six months with a vow of silence. I have practiced meditation in India. I have lived in the Amazon. I have reached the final goal of this search in Jesus.”
And America’s Sweetheart Julia Roberts has played a multitude of unique characters, but the one who reached her on a personal and spiritual level was her character in the 2010 film, Eat, Pray, Love.
Though raised by a Catholic mother and a Baptist father, Roberts became intrigued by the Hindu religion while shooting on location in India. But more specifically, it was a photo of a Hindu guru that caught her eye.
“I was so drawn to this picture of this person and I didn’t know who he was or what he was about, but I felt a very strong interest. That’s the way things come into our lives. They’re not these big, great, crashing moments. It’s just the little like, ‘Hmm, what is this about?'” she said.
Since her conversion, Roberts has introduced the religion to her family, and now her husband and three kids frequent a temple to chant, pray, and celebrate.
They say understanding the deeper inner-psyche of a being requires to walk a mile in his/her shoes. In these cases, those shoes led these role-players the path to uncover the answers to the spiritual void missing in their hearts. Religion and faith can be found anywhere. Sometimes, it just requires a bit of a spark.