Based on the New York Times best-selling book of the same name, “Heaven Is for Real” (directed by Randall Wallace, who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay) brings to the screen the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son’s extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world. The film stars Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo and co-stars Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo, the real-life couple whose son Colton (played by Connor Corum) claims to have visited heaven during a near death experience.
Colton recounts the details of his amazing journey with childlike innocence and speaks matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth — things he couldn't possibly know. Todd and his family are then challenged to examine the meaning from this remarkable event. Here is what Kinnear said at the Texas press junket for “Heaven Is for Real.”
“Heaven Is for Real” is one of the few religious-themed films that a major movie is releasing in 2014. What are your thoughts?
It’s a good story. I think it’s told in a very honest way. It’s a tricky subject matter. How do you tell this story and make it accessible? Obviously, I think the success of Randy’s script was to bring the viewer into this family, put them in a small town, and give them a sense of how these events transpired, as told by them. He pulled that off.
“Heaven Is for Real” shows how Todd Burpo has doubts about Colton’s story. What can you say about internal conflict?
Todd is a pastor, he’s a volunteer firefighter, he’s a wrestling coach, a father. He’s a lot of different things, but he is a pastor. And to have his son go through a near-death experience and come back with the news that what [Todd] has been saying is consistent with what the boy saw, and for that to be the starting place for [internal conflict], I thought that interesting.
Usually, when you have these stories about a man wrestling with his faith, or finding out that something he believed is not true — instead, this boy is saying, “All you’ve been saying is the truth.” For that to be the starting point for [Rodd Burpo] to have a bit of a crisis, I thought was interesting.
Do you think because Colton was so young, that his young age makes him more credible when he says he went to heaven?
Yeah. I have three kids. My daughters have hit that four-year mark. And it’s an interesting age. They have a fantastic imagination. “There’s a pink elephant up in the bedroom. There are dinosaurs at school.”
But at the same time, the most honest thing you ever heard will come out of [kids’] mouths. I think with Todd’s introduction of this news, he’s kind of wrestling with which child he is dealing with and which information is real or fantasy. It’s that journey down the rabbit hole that we try to follow.
For more info: "Heaven Is for Real" website