Movie director Jon Erwin joined Glenn on radio Monday, to share some details about the new movie, Woodlawn, which will premiere on 8/28 in Birmingham as part of Glenn's Restoring Unity event.
"It's a story of a high school that was going to close from violence due to integration. 1973 Birmingham, my home town," Erwin said. "And nothing could fix the problem. Nothing could fix the hatred. You know, policy couldn't fix it. Police. And it was a spiritual awakening that happened on the football team. The entire team decided to make a decision together to love God and love each other."
Watch the Woodlawn trailer below.
Erwin also shared a few details about preparations now being made for the Restoring Unity march and stadium events.
"We have some surprises. We have a blimp that's going to be there to display Never Again Is Now. We'll do a lot of cool things," he said.
Watch the following clip of the segment or read the full transcript below.
Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors.
GLENN: Welcome back to the program. We have Jon Erwin with us. He is the director of Woodlawn which is this great new movie coming out in October. And we're actually doing the premiere of it on Saturday night. The world premiere is going to be in Birmingham, Alabama, because it is a story that happened in Birmingham, Alabama. Tell me the story, Jon.
JON: Oh, Woodlawn is incredible. I mean, it's timely. It's a story of a high school that was going to close from violence due to integration. 1973 Birmingham, my home town. And nothing could fix the problem. Nothing could fix the hatred. You know, policy couldn't fix it. Police. And it was a spiritual awakening that happened on the football team. The entire team decided to make a decision together to love God and love each other.
GLENN: And this happened -- the guy in the movie who plays it is Sean Astin. And you know Sean Astin, he played Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings. And so he's a big actor. And he just comes in during a program. Who is the real guy?
JON: You know, that's the amazing thing. Sean Astin's character is based in part on my father and one other minister that worked with -- so this is literally a family story that I've heard. My brother and I always wanted to make this into a movie. As we did the research, the story not only met what we had been told as kids, but far exceeded it. And it led to the largest game that's ever been played in Alabama, on a high school level. And it really was the way the city began to heal.
And it led to Birmingham's first African-American superstar, Tony Nathan, that was heavily recruited by Bear Bryant who is played by Jon Voight in the film. So it was a real treat. From Birmingham, as a die-hard Alabama fan, to have Jon Voight played Bear Bryant. And just to tell this story, it puts our city in a really good light. And I feel like it's needed. Because it's a story of love conquering hatred. And a commitment to love each other, you see the blatant effects of it. It's a true story. And I think there couldn't be anything more relevant.
GLENN: I just -- I was reading some of the things on Facebook this weekend. You know, people will say, yeah, Glenn, you know, I hear the love thing. I got it. I got it. I got it. But we need really solutions. And I keep saying in my head and keep saying it out loud, that is a real solution. In fact, that's the only solution. And people just for some reason don't take that one seriously.
JON: It works. That's my point. I love to study what works and find what works. And we need answers, you know. I remember when we were filming the video, you know, we didn't know what was going to happen. We decided to make this film last summer. We didn't know how timely it was going to be. And one of our actors was from Ferguson. And Ferguson was happening as we were shooting the movie. And we said, look, you need to go home. Like, we'll redo the whole schedule. He said, no, this is why we're here making this movie because this is the answer.
And I think, look, thousands of years ago, Christ said, love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. And that is a very real answer that produces very real results. And this is an absolutely true story at a public high school. This is what worked. And if it worked then, maybe it could work now.
GLENN: So we're doing the movie premiere. This is 7 o'clock on Saturday night. The same arena that we're doing the event. Jon Voight is coming. Tell us a little about -- because if we're asking people to come, you can be a part of all this. Who is coming for the movie premiere.
JON: I mean, that's the great thing. You know, my last film was Mom's Night Out. And we did a premiere in LA. And we've never done anything in Birmingham to say thank you to celebrate the city, to celebrate what we've done. And so this will be an incredible event. And I think it just ties so nicely to what you wanted to come to Birmingham to do. We're absolutely unified around your vision and your idea. It was an absolutely natural idea. You meet the cast. There's going to be red carpet. We'll rev up the film. You typically never do a premiere this big. So it's pretty cool. This will be one of the larger premieres that I've ever heard of. And I think it will be a lot of fun and I think it will be great to have your audience and also have Birmingham, get to have a sneak peek at Woodlawn six weeks before it's out in theaters.
GLENN: Tell me a little bit -- because you are actually on the ground. And I come on Thursday to start doing -- start looking at the program and everything else that we have on Saturday. Tell people what we're planning on.
JON: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think that -- first of all, I think that when I heard just of the idea of Restoring Unity, it was something that I had to be a part of. And I think it's time -- it's absolutely time for those of us who believe in the same values to come together and show it. And it's time for a blatant public display of unity. And the fact that you would step forward and do that is incredible.
But I think some of the things that we'll do is just going to be awesome. I mean, the people that are going to be there. We have some surprises. We have a blimp that's going to be there to display never again is now. We'll do a lot of cool things. But we'll march. And that was your vision. And I think that's important. And I think it's timely. And it's something that I have to be a part of and I want to help empower. And then the program that you have, you know, the whole day in taking a break and revving the red carpet and showing people Woodlawn. That night, I think it will just be a blast. And I think anybody that would -- we have to stop complaining. And we have to start taking action. And we have to start taking action together. And we have to start unifying beyond our differences. And I think that Restoring Unity can be a big part of something that can last years. It's more than one event and it's something I'm happy to be a part of.
GLENN: I was in church yesterday. And I was in a men's meeting at church. And one of our -- one of our dear friends and fellow church members has cancer quite horribly just ravaging him. And he's just one of the nicest, most optimistic guys you've ever met. And we were sitting there, and what was nice was, all of us just took action at the time. You know, he was really down. So we just all gathered around him and prayed. And I think that that needs to start happening outside of our churches as well. We just need to not be afraid. And in the South, it's different than it is up North. It's not as unusual in the South. But it's still -- it's still something that people don't do enough. And in the North, they certainly don't. You just don't talk about God.
JON: Yeah. I think we've become more lonely. I think the people that you can call upon in the event of a life crisis has been steadily declining since the '50s. We've gotten so connected. We've gotten so lonely. And I think a lot of us feel that. And I think a lot of us want to see beyond. I mean, we can look all day at the things that divide us and we can let those things separate us, or we can transcend those and look at the things that unite us. And we can champion those together in a very public way, and I think anybody that believes that should come to Birmingham.
GLENN: You're really a great example because you're Southern Baptist. Aren't you?
JON: Yeah. Born and raised.
GLENN: Yeah. I'm LDS. And those two are not supposed to get along. And you came to my ranch when I was on hiatus and told me you wanted to volunteer your services and your team wanted to help produce this. And at one point, we started talking about our faith. And how our faiths are supposed to be at war with each other. We're supposed to disagree with each other. And we do disagree theologically on things. But that doesn't mean we can't work with one another on big things.
JON: That's exactly right. That's the beauty of something like this. I just think today, culturally, we're in this unify or lose territory.
GLENN: We are.
JON: And I feel, are there differences between myself as a Southern Baptist and yourself as a LDS? Of course there are. Is there a time to talk about those differences openly and debate them? Absolutely. But I don't believe that time is today, at least not at the public square. And I think that it's time for evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, our Jewish friends, to take cultural opportunities to unify around what we value. And to do that in a very, very loud way. And I think Birmingham is a chance to do that. And I would just challenge everybody that is listening. If you believe in the same things that we believe in, why are we sitting in this place of inaction on the sidelines? And when someone like you steps up and says, let's do this. Let's do something. I can't sit idly by. And I have to do that. And I've come to deeply respect both your friendship and your -- and your beliefs and I think God is doing a great work in your life as he is in mine. And I'm glad to be able to do something together and make a statement together and I challenge everyone listening to come make that statement with us.
GLENN: I knew that when you were doing Woodlawn and you needed a place to show it here in the Dallas area, and we opened up the movie studio doors immediately to you guys for the same reason because anybody who is on the same path -- you're on the same path, man. Anybody who is trying to make a difference for good, we have to stand together.
JON: That's right. I just think unity is our problem.
GLENN: It is.
JON: And unity is our answer.
GLENN: That's why we're being divided right now. That's why everyone is trying to divide us. Between black and white, rich and poor, Republican/Democrat, North and South. No matter what it is, they're all trying to divide. Because they know, we're not scary if we're divided. If we stand together, that's when we have real power.
JON: Oh, I'm brokenhearted for my culture. I'm brokenhearted for a generation. I'm brokenhearted for what my business of entertainment is doing to a generation. And, you know, in the evangelical church, you know, millennials are leaving faster than before. We're losing an entire generation, and I'm brokenhearted for that. And so anyone that will help take back the microphone to get to a generation --
GLENN: How daunting was it for you to do a movie -- you know, because your idea is, I'm not just going to do a little faith-based movie. I want a blockbuster. You're like, why can't we have a blockbuster?
JON: That's the goal. That's the idea. I think it's time that we stop trying to compete with each other, with other Christian films or other faith-based films. We have to start competing with 50 Shades of Gray and Jurassic World and all these things that get the attention of a generation, not only in America, but worldwide. And I'm asking the question, why can't we? There's enough of us. We have enough resources. I mean, there's enough evangelical wealth in Dallas, Texas, to change the world ten times. We have plenty of money. We just have not had a unified strategy, and we have not had the will. And I believe it's possible to make something a lot bigger.
So, yes, we put together $25 million to do Woodlawn both to make and market. And it seems like a lot of money. But the way I look at it, it's less than half of what 50 Shades of Gray spent to get to a generation, to get the attention of a generation. So we have to ask how much we care. And I'm passionate about making really entertaining movies that people will love. And this is an inspirational sports story that you will love. But I am also passionate about sharing what I believe is true, and ultimately sharing the gospel of Christ with as many people as I can. And movies are an incredible way to do that.
So we're saying is, we have to put the gospel on a bigger stage. We have to put truth on a grand stage. We have to earn a message, not use it as a crutch. If you haven't been to the studios, you get creative just walking in the door. So that's why I wanted to bring some of the top leaders in America here because it's a great tangible manifestation of truth, but with scale and with excellence. You know, it's a great place. So I was happy to come here and it was incredibly effective. And it's just a great friendship that built.
GLENN: This is Jon Erwin. His new movie is Woodlawn. It opens up in October. We'll tell you more about it when we get closer to October. But they're premiering it with all the stars, including Jon Voight Saturday in Birmingham at our event. And it's kind of a way to cap the night off and say thank you to everybody. And we want you to come. You can find out more about it. Just go to now.mercuryone.org. Now.mercuryone.org.
Jon, thank you very much.
JON: Oh, thanks for having me.