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‘Braveheart’ Writer Randall Wallace Directs ‘Heaven is for Real’

Randall Wallace, the Oscar®-nominated writer of “Braveheart” now directs TriStar Pictures’ mystery film “Heaven Is For Real” which is based on a non-fiction book that has inspired millions across the globe.

The film stars Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo, a small-town businessman, volunteer firefighter and pastor struggling to make ends meet in a tough year for his family. After his bright young son Colton (newcomer Connor Corum in his feature film debut) is rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, Todd and his wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly) are overjoyed by his miraculous survival. But they are wholly unprepared for what happens next — Colton starts to matter-of-factly recount what he says was an amazing journey to heaven and back. As Colton innocently tells his parents details of things he couldn’t possibly know, Todd finds himself colliding against a wall of mystery and doubt, until he breaks through to rediscover hope, wonder and the strength of purpose.

While millions of readers have come away from the book Heaven Is For Real with a thrilling sense of deepened convictions, Randall Wallace is well aware that not everyone will interpret the things Colton saw during his surgery the same way – and the script wrangles with those very same doubts.

“There are going to be people who will be immediately skeptical,” Wallace acknowledges. “I certainly have been skeptical of different elements of the story — what the characters said happened, what they believed happened, what they reported experiencing . . . I questioned everything. But one of the features of any great story is that it has mystery and suspense. It’s that questioning that keeps us moving forward in this story . . . and in life.”

For Wallace, the full power of “Heaven Is For Real” comes down not only to what Colton says he saw in heaven, but even more so to how his story has touched, and changed, so many lives here on earth. “Ultimately the issue every person faces in this world is what am I going to do with this breath that I am taking now, with this heart I have, with these thoughts I have? What am I going to do with this life? What happened to Colton makes us think about these things,” he concludes.

As the script progressed, Wallace also began to develop a ground rule for the production. “When we started this process, the one thing that I said to everybody who came aboard the film was, ‘remember the title: Heaven Is For Real.’ I always felt this needed to be a real story about real people — so it was vital that every scene, every action and every word feel a part of everyday life.”

While the film is destined to bring Colton’s disarming message about heaven to many more people, the Burpos also know the film’s release will also raise more questions they’ll have to tackle – something they don’t mind doing. (Colton himself is now in high school and continues to speak openly about his experiences.)

“We feel we’ve planted a seed, or at least presented it, and people have an opportunity to believe it or not,” explains Todd Burpo.

For Wallace, the bottom line was presenting the Burpo’s story in an authentic, compelling way, and leaving the rest open to personal contemplation and community conversation in the aftermath. “What I think will draw people to `Heaven Is For Real’ is the idea that they’re going to be captivated by a story. People want to be moved, they want to be grabbed, and they want to be spoken to from the heart,” he summarizes.

Opening across the Philippines on Black Saturday, April 19, “Heaven is for Real” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

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