Considering that “Do You Believe?” — released to theaters this weekend — is an overtly Christian movie, this nearly qualifies as high praise from The Hollywood Reporter:
Clearly flush with the profits from their previous hit, [“God’s Not Dead”]. the filmmakers have delivered an effort with solid production values and a cast stuffed with familiar (if faded) stars giving performances fully committed to the agenda-spouting material.
Because, no mainstream Hollywood movies have an agenda. Not a single one of them. Yep.
Pure Flix Entertainment, 10 West Studios and Believe Entertainment are behind “Do You Believe?”, a “Crash”-like saga of 12 characters facing a variety of life crises, including crises of faith, who come together in a huge car crash on a bridge. Filmed in Michigan, the movie has an impressive cast, including Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Cybill Shepherd (whose name The Hollywood Reporter review misspelled as “Cybil”), Delroy Lindo, Lee Majors, Alex PenaVega and Ted McGinley.
Shepherd plays Teri, who, together with husband J.D. (Lee Majors), is suffering after the death of their daughter.
Speaking to assembled press at a junket last week in Los Angeles, Shepherd said, “My mother, we lost my sister, and that’s not the natural order. Parents are supposed to die before their children die. So when a parent outlives a child … it’s got to be the worst wound of any.
“My mother didn’t believe in God, because of the way she saw her mother die. We still had a Catholic person to administer the sacraments for my mother, and I got to be with her the last two weeks of her life, which was very important.”
Shepherd chose to be confirmed as an Episcopalian, when she was given a copy of the Book of Common Prayer.
“That prayer book is really symbolic for me,” she said, “that they gave me. It’s not a fancy one. My grandmother gave me a fancier one. I keep that, too, but it was that prayer book when I was 13.”
Shepherd’s relationship with faith is best described as complicated. In 2009, speaking out in opposition to the passing of Proposition 8 in California, Shepherd said she blamed “the Mormons and the Catholics” for the measure succeeding at the polls.
Regarding her personal faith, she said:
I’m a Christian Pagan Buddhist Goddess worshiper, but I’m also a feminist. I think the ultimate glass ceiling is God, in another words, if we think God is a man, then we make man a God, and I studied and learned that there is a whole other history of the worshiping of the great mother,” she explained. “I really think that probably God is a woman, that helped me to break through that celestial glass ceiling.
Shepherd is also a long-time pro-choice activist, having revealed in her autobiography,” called “Cybill Disobedience,” that she had an abortion herself (it’s on page 94 of this PDF) . In a 2009 interview with “CBS This Morning,” Shepherd said:
“I just want to say one quick thing,” she remarked, “about the ‘war on women’ and reproductive freedom, including the attack on Planned Parenthood that that not only — abortion is our constitutional right. We should keep it legal. And also birth control should be available to everyone.”
The mother of three children, including actress Clementine Ford, Shepherd suffered a crisis of faith herself after a failed engagement in 2012.
But, shortly before receiving the script to “Do You Believe,” Shepherd had started praying again.
“I was very moved by the script,” she said at the junket. “I had started talking to Jesus again, saying, ‘Help me be more healthy, live the way that I feel better about myself,’ and then I got offered the part. I know that sounds corny, but it worked.”
Some actors might be worried that appearing in a faith-based project could hurt their careers, but Shepherd dismissed that, saying, “You’d better keep working, number one. And if you get a great movie like this, where you have a great part to play, what’re you going to say, ‘No,’ because it’s a Christian movie? Do it. Keep working.
“If you get a chance to do a movie like this, it’s very rare. I’ve only had one. I would do it again in a second. You don’t actually have to be a Christian to do this film, you can not be. You’re an actor.”
Click here to head over to my Pax Culturati blog at Patheos Catholic, for a conversation with Shepherd’s co-star, Ted McGinley, who plays a pastor (and once pondered the priesthood).
Here’s the trailer: