My exclusive interview with Andrew Hyatt, director of “Paul Apostle of Christ”: a beautiful conversation

Dear guys, it’s my honor to present you my exclusive interview with Andrew Hyatt, director of “Paul Apostle of Christ”, a faith-based movie released in 2018. Two years later the original release of the picture, we had a very nice and candid conversation. I’m exited to have Andrew in my artist list: he was one of my most wanted. The interview is one of the best I have ever done: enjoy it.

A huge Thanks to Tana Evans, for Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, AFFIRM Films & Television.

An interview with Andrew Hyatt,
director of “Paul Apostle of Christ” 
By Fabio Arancio
 

©Copyright
©Fabio Arancio ©theorangeblogger.com
©All Rights Reserved

“Paul Apostle of Christ”
Q&A with Andrew Hyatt  
06.11.2020  

Hello mr. Hyatt, thank you for having accepted my request. I’m honored to interview you and to promote your movie. Now, let’s talk about it, two years after the original release.  

1. There have been more than 2 years since the original release of “Paul Apostle of Christ”: How has it gone? Are you satisfied with the gotten result, both artistically  and commercially?  

Thank you again for your interest in the film! I am very pleased with the release of Paul, Apostle of Christ even two years later. We continue to see the film break into new territories all around the world. It performed particularly well in the USA, Brazil, Mexico, and South Korea. We worked on a small budget for a historical piece, so I am very proud of the cast, crew, and everyone involved in the film that it was able to have such a commercial impact. Artistically, I am very proud of the film and I believe it offers a very powerful and unique look at the very end of Paul’s life. I know it is the type of film that will continue to resonate with audiences for many years to come. 

2. Let’s go back in time. You did “The Frozen”, released in  2012, and then “The Last Light”, out in 2014. Then “Full  of Grace”, a full-length about The Virgin Mary, came out, and you ended up being recognized for something completely different. What happened in between? Tell us the story behind the big change.  

It’s a very good question. I grew up Catholic, but I never wanted to make “Christian films.” In fact, I very much walked away from my faith for a number of years, being caught up in the Hollywood pursuit of sex, drugs, and rock n roll it could be said. After I made “The Last Light” I was getting a lot of attention from studios. People in the industry were saying, the next one is going to be big, you’re going to crack through the ceiling and make it big. But that’s not what God had in mind. I had a very big ego, and some big problems in my life. God was merciful and gracious and took me and my family (I had a wife and one daughter at the time) on a very long journey. All the work that I was getting dried up. There was nothing. And we were running out of money and still no jobs. God closed every door. I was very angry for awhile. We actually became homeless for a few months and eventually had to leave Los Angeles to go live with our parents. It seemed that the dream was over and I did not understand what happened. But God had a bigger plan in mind. There was a long period where I was “trying to be famous” but God came to me and said, “I want you to just be faithful to Me. Go where I tell you to go. Do what I tell you to do.” And I felt God really putting on my heart, this thought of “Tell My story. Tell the story of my people, my church.” So that is what happened to get me to Full of Grace. It was a very small film, but a very beautiful experience of being connected with our Lady and her experience as a Mother to Christ. I am grateful that my plans did not work out and God’s plans did.

3. How you came up with “Paul Apostle of Christ” as the next subject to do? What made you decide to do this project?  

It is difficult to explain, but it was certainly the Holy Spirit. After Full of Grace I just had it on my heart that the next story I was supposed to tell was Paul’s story. I really felt God nudging me to do it and the same producers from Full of Grace were very excited and supportive of me diving into it. Again, God’s plans were perfect. When I spoke to Sony Pictures and Rich Peluso and Josh Nadler at Affirm Films, they informed me that they had been looking for a long time for the right Paul film. 

4. What is the key message of the movie, the biggest meaning behind the frame, according to you?  

There are many messages of faith in the film and I am very happy when I hear all the themes that different audiences have felt impacted them the most. How to discern our faith in difficult times is something that I have heard a lot from audiences. For me, I was always very moved by the understanding of the early church that suffering has a purpose to glorify Christ. Today in the church we do not like to suffer. We want to be comfortable. But Christ says we must deny ourselves and to pick up our cross and follow Him. This is what Paul and the early church did without question. They preached the truth of the Gospel amidst persecution and even death. Many of our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing this right now. And we must remember the sacrifice and strong faith that it takes and let that inspire our own faith in the West. 

5. You are both the director and the author of the  screenplay. I can presume it must have been a pretty personal project to made. Out of the many aspects of the story of Saint Paul, which one attracted your attention the most, first as man, then as director? 

Paul has always fascinated me from a human perspective. His conversion, his abandonment of his own will and plans. His complete trust and commitment to God’s holy work. What I was moved by his story is the idea that all say to ourselves “I am not good enough to become a Saint.” But Paul teaches us that anyone can become a Saint. As a director, I was inspired by the idea of doing another historical piece set in Rome. It was an incredibly sober moment towards the end of Nero’s reign. Christians were being burned in the streets and thrown to the lions in the circus. Yet, they went singing and praising God. I wanted to capture that and remind us today what the early church experienced.  

6. Did you feel in some ways inspired and supported by God to proceed and to make this project real? 

Yes. It was completely driven by the Holy Spirit because I did not know what part of the story I should tell, or what I should say to the audiences. So I trusted that God would fill in the gaps for me.

7. Let’s talk about the pre-production phase of the movie. Today it is not easy to produce, to promote and to deliver a religious-based movie. These kind of movies  only find place in the niche market. Was it hard to find  the legal opportunities and the various resources to  make the movie possible? 

Yes, agreed. Though it is encouraging that now it is very clear there is a large international audience that wants to see these types of films. We had such great support from Sony Pictures and Affirm Films. They always believed in the script and the project from the first time I showed it to them, that it made the process very enjoyable and collaborative. They understood what the Apostle Paul means to the international audience and they were very respectful of all that surrounded that.

8. I shall presume you went through the delicate process of reading and exploring the Pauline epistles, the Holy Scripture in general and the story of saint Paul. What was the most interesting part about it? Any problem with the writing process?  

Both for Full of Grace and Paul, Apostle of Christ always my first step was to explore and get very familiar with the scriptures. That is the most important. God speaks through the scriptures, even today. So that is where much of the inspiration comes from. After this, my next step is to read as many books as possible, both theologically focused, but also just historical focused so I can understand even more. The most difficult part of this script was how to capture the spirit of Paul in a two hour film. Obviously his life could make many films or a television series because so much has happened. So I had to be very prayerful and discerning about which part of Paul’s life to focus on. In early scripts it was too much, too many pages, too long of a film. But with more and more research and praying, it became clear to me that the best way to tell Paul’s story for a modern audience was to start at the end of his life. 

9. How was choosing the right actor, one for each character of the script?  

Casting is always very difficult because there are so many factors at play. Meaning, there is always a financial question, then a question of schedules, who is available and who is not. We thought of many individuals for many of the roles, but Patricia DiCerto, our casting director was always offering unique thoughts to help us think outside of the box and pick who would be perfect for the role, not just someone that the audience would recognize. I love the process, being able to bring to life the words on the page through the actors is a real joy. I believe we found some amazing talent that brought to life characters from scripture in an authentic and powerful way.

10. Had James Faulkner any clue of who he was going to play, when he first got the opportunity?  

James had a decent idea of who Paul was from his much younger days as a school boy at an Anglican school I believe. (he can correct me if I’m wrong!) But the most important part of James Faulkner’s incredible transformation was his willingness to be open to “hearing from Paul.” James from the very beginning knew how much this man meant to the christian worldwide audience and he wanted to be incredibly respectful of that. James is an incredible talent. One of the best in the world in my opinion. You see how he wasn’t playing the part. He was letting the part play him. Something very transformational and powerful came through that. There are still scenes in the movie I watch and I wonder to myself, “who is in the room?” That is not James… “Surely, that is Paul!”

11. You have had the opportunity to work with Jim Caviezel, an extraordinary talent who interpreted Jesus in “The Passion”. How was working with him? Were you afraid the Jim could be more Jesus then Luke?  

Jim Caviezel is incredibly focused and takes his work very seriously. I was never afraid that he would not capture the role of Luke because of that. Jim was always very dedicated to getting the role just right. Again, we were very lucky with this cast that everyone knew that bringing these characters to life was a very big deal for the audience so they really all put the extra time and energy in. Obviously with Jim, you also get his faith perspective, it becomes a prayer for him in a way so it’s a different process than you would normally go through with an actor.

12. I think that the movie of Gibson is a brilliant example of  how to make a faith-based movie, especially when it comes to technical construction, historical accuracy and visual effects. It might helps directors to embrace  high-quality ideas. Have you took any inspiration from it, be it artistically or technical? 

I agree completely. Yes, my goal with my films is to always make something that resonates with the reality of faith and not the supposed reality. Too many Christian films make Christianity look easy and cheap, and for me, it is not representative of life as a Christian. But the Passion showed the reality of faith. The reality of the cost of faith, the ultimate sacrifice. I know that many people say the film is too violent, but I do not believe you can escape the violence of the cross and still understand what Christ has done for you. You must understand the brutal violence to understand the incredible beauty of it all. 

13. Otherwise, what movies influenced you the most in the making of?  

I did use The Passion of the Christ as inspiration, certainly in a high quality, artistic sense. From a deeper human perspective, a dissection of humanity and the questions of man and faith, I always find inspiration in my favorite filmmaker. Andrei Tarkovsky. I believe in his films he is always wanting to find the answer with the audience, he is exploring his own humanity, mortality, and faith. He does not come to the audience and say “listen to me, I will give you an answer.” He says, “Let us explore this deep question together. Perhaps we will find an answer together.” This is the difference of sacred art and bad christian art. Bad christian art says “I have a message, here it is, accept it.”… Sacred art says “The message is beyond us, let us explore the mystery together.”

14. In these days of confusion, where faith has been marginalized and Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, seems to have been forgotten, what could saint Paul the apostle  tell to the world, in 2020?  

We must remember that faith is forged in the reality of suffering. Faith is not forged from the comfort of the pews and the coffee shop. For too long the church has assumed that more people will come to Christ if we make it easy, but that is not what the world is desperate for. The world is desperate for meaning, for purpose, for something mysterious that is beyond them. When we water down the faith and water down Christ, we build churches full of soft souls. Gone at the first obstacle, the first struggle. Saint Paul shows the world what abandonment to the heart of God and the Gospel truly looks like. It costs everything. But look at the fruit, look at the joy. It is a purpose beyond what the world can give you.

15. Can you tell us something about your next project? After “Paul Apostle of Christ”, it would be nice to see another faith-based movie. The italian catholic romans saints could be an interesting subject..  

James Faulkner and I have just finished a film called All Those Small Things. While it is not a biblical or saint film, it deals with mortality, and asks the question of what is our purpose here. Beyond that, I am always trying to be available to where Christ calls me next. 

Our interview is over. It’s my pleasure to keep promoting your movies. Thank you very much! May you find Grace, Joy and Salvation in Christ through Mary.  

Ad Jesum per Mariam 

Cheers! God bless you!

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