'Last Ounce of Courage' weighs in on freedom
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Movie tough guy Marshall Teague has a tender spot for his lead role in "Last Once of Courage."
If it's the last role he ever plays, "my life as an actor would be complete," the veteran actor told Baptist Press.The movie, which opens in 1,200 theaters nationwide Sept. 14, tells the story of Bob Revere (played by Teague), a combat veteran who suffered the loss of his son 14 years earlier. Revere, a part-time pharmacist and part-time mayor in the fictional town of Mt. Columbus, is mired in complacency -- until his grandson challenges him to take a stand for faith and freedom.
Revere begins by using his position as mayor to restore Christmas displays to public buildings in Mt. Columbus. Enter Warren Hammerschmidt (played by ex-NFL great Fred Williamson) from D.C., leader of a powerful civil liberties organization, to challenge Bob's right to restore Christmas.
Last Ounce of Courage could be "this year's 'Courageous,'" a 20-something attendee said after a screening of the film at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth on Aug. 31. Another described the movie as "very moving and inspirational. It has a great message. We've been silent way too long."
Last Ounce all started with sweatshirts.
Evangelist Bailey Smith asked friends Richard and Gina Headrick, owners of a Mississippi-based advertising and signage enterprise, to print sweatshirts saying: "Christmas is not just a holiday -- it's a holy day." People could wear them to office parties and holiday gatherings, taking a public stand for Jesus in a world increasingly antagonistic to expressions of faith.
The idea inspired the Headricks to write and publish a small booklet, "Keeping Christ in Christmas," later commissioning an audio CD. The Hendricks provided the material to actor, writer and producer Darrel Campbell, whose lengthy resume includes the film "The Pistol" and projects for Disney and ESPN. Campbell initially wanted to produce a short video based on the booklet for use in churches. The Headricks, praying about financing a longer production, embraced a greater vision.
"The Lord spoke, 'I will give you a story for a movie,'" Richard Headrick said. It was a Thursday evening. By the following Monday morning, the plot was finished. Campbell, who appears in the film in a comic role, then wrote the screenplay.
"Darrel took a sow's ear and made it into a silk purse," said Richard Headrick, whose piercing blue eyes, folksy humor and Willie Nelson ponytail made him perfect for a cameo role in the movie. Campbell enlisted a Los Angeles casting agency, assembled the first of three crews and directed shooting in Paola, Kan.
Teague's name surfaced for the lead when a friend who had worked with him in 1989's "Road House" recommended him to casting directors. "You don't know what his [Marshall's] heart is," the friend told the executives, who only knew Teague as a movie tough guy.
Teague was immediately enthusiastic. "I knew from the second I read the script that it was special," the actor said. "I was blessed to have the opportunity to play the role and to do something different: to look people in the eye and tell them the truth from my heart."
The Headricks sold property, recruited investors, even moved to Kansas for the filming. Eventually Kevin McAfee was brought in to direct the second part of the film. McAfee, founder of Veritas and former CEO of Every Tribe Entertainment, has a resume as a music and film producer as comprehensive as Campbell's. An ordained Southern Baptist minister who served 11 years as a media minister, McAfee had produced the films "End of the Spear" and "Beyond the Gates of Splendor." McAfee broadened the scope of Last Ounce of Courage, taking production to Washington, D.C., and Silverton, Colo., among other locations. McAfee also handled the film's post production.
The movie was finished in 2008, coinciding with the nation's economic downturn. "[The film] was 'in the can,'" Richard Headrick said. "It sat there…. We didn't know what to do with it."
"We thought we had the world's most expensive DVD on our shelves," Gina Headrick said.
Efforts to promote the movie generated little interest until an individual at a 2012 screening at Universal Studios in California offered to finance the distribution. To encourage Christians to participate in public affairs, the anonymous investor stipulated the film be in theaters before the November 2012 elections. Veritas and the Headricks agreed.
McAfee downplayed the movie's political implications, saying, "This is not a film for Republicans, Democrats or Independents. It is a film for Americans" addressing the nation's embattled religious freedom. "Twenty-five years ago, everything that seemed right is wrong, and now what is wrong is right," McAfee said. "Our nation is in trouble."
Like Bob Revere, Richard and Gina Headrick are members of the biker ministry Hellfighters which they founded seven years ago, now in 15 states. With the Headricks' many business and media ventures, they are seldom still. Company spokesperson Lance Chancellor said 95 percent of Headrick corporate profits go to support missionary and nonprofit work toward encouraging people to make a difference.
The producers call Last Ounce of Courage an intergenerational film, with "something for every age group," as Gina Headrick put it. From teen actors Hunter Gomez and Jenna Boyd to seasoned Hollywood veterans Teague and Jennifer O'Neill, the film's talent pool is deep. The film's musical score is by Grammy-winner Michael Omartian and others.
Special early premieres of Last Ounce of Courage are scheduled at select theaters on Patriot Day, Sept. 11. As with all independent film producers, the Headricks and Veritas are hoping that box office totals for the Sept. 14-17 national opening will play a role in expanding the film's reach.
At Southwestern, a pre-screening gala was hosted by the Headricks, Veritas and the seminary. Some 200 guests dined on Texas fare: brisket, cornbread, beans and pecan pie. Richard Headrick regaled the audience with an account of the movie's history, introducing producers, actors and Veritas partners in attendance.
Headrick also made special presentations to individuals significant to the film. Steven Smith, dean of the College at Southwestern, accepted a plaque for his father, Bailey Smith, whose yearning to keep Christ in Christmas originally inspired the project.
While the name of the film's main character suggests the patriot silversmith Paul Revere, the Headricks based the character of Bob Revere on their friend Bob Kendrick, longtime missionary to El Salvador. Presenting Kendrick with a plaque at the gala, Headrick said, "Bob never backed up. He has planted hundreds of churches, trained hundreds of pastors and begun Bible institutes in El Salvador [via Kendrick Ministries]. He is an example of what one man with courage can do for God."
Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern's president and professor of theology in women's studies, also was recognized by Headrick, who said he modeled the character of Revere's wife Dottie after Patterson, noting, "Behind every successful man is a good woman." The dinner concluded with remarks from Paige Patterson who also requested prayer for military chaplains trained at Southwestern.
The guests then joined more than 500 others in Southwestern's Truett Auditorium for a screening of the film, followed by remarks by director McAfee and introductions of cast, crew and producers and recognition of military veterans in the audience. McAfee made an appeal to audience members to encourage friends and neighbors to see Last Ounce in theaters, emphasizing the importance of its opening weekend in determining the success of an independent film. An autograph session followed with Teague and other actors in the film.
Jane Rodgers is a writer in Rowlett, Texas. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).