Dennis Quaid, star of the hit Christian film, “I Can Only Imagine” about MercyMe singer Bart Millard shared what he believes the key gift the artist’s father gave his son.
“Imagine” continues to defy the odds makers, holding at No. 3 on the box office over the weekend and besting such major Hollywood releases as “Tomb Raider” and “Wrinkle in Time.”
The faith film, which was made for $7 million, has taken in over $38 million in less than two weeks, according to Box Office Mojo.
Quaid, who plays Millard’s father’s in “Imagine,” said that getting into that character was not easy.
The veteran actor has portrayed his share of good guy fathers in the past in such films as “Soul Surfer” (2011), and two Disney movies, “The Rookie” (2002) and “The Parent Trap” (1998).
“I’ve played dads before many times,” Quaid told CBN News. “Most of my dads are like the ‘The Parent Trap’ dads … dream dads.”
“They really got me great points in the carpool line,” the father of three joked.
In contrast Arthur Millard, Bart’s father, abused his son “emotionally, physically, and verbally every day during his childhood into his teen years. Most abusers, they were abused themselves.”
Bart was on set during production of the movie, and knowing it was a true story, Quaid felt an obligation to get his portrayal of Arthur right.
“(W)e wanted to get it authentic for (Bart) more than anything else, so you have to go to these places (emotionally),” the performer said.
Quaid sat down with Bart and asked him to share his story, so he could get insight into Arthur.
“It wasn’t what (Bart) said,” the star recounted. “I just got a feeling from him, just watching him and feeling him as he talked about his dad. That is where I got his character.”
Arthur was diagnosed with terminal cancer when Bart was in his teens, though he did not initially tell his son.
Following the diagnosis, “Arthur had a spiritual awakening, which comes out of that and started to pray,” Quaid said. “You know in prayer, you cannot lie to yourself … because you don’t get to prayer until you’ve tried everything else.”
“What (Bart’s) father wanted was forgiveness really,” he explained. “And he was really trying to forgive himself. I’m sure God had forgiven him already, but he didn’t know it.”
Bart witnessed a change in his father.
“Slowly and over time, they came to the point that had the most beautiful, loving relationship at the end of Arthur’s life,” Quaid said.
“The gift that Arthur gave to Bart was that Bart did not have to carry that around for the rest of his life, which would be a heavy, heavy load. He broke that chain and freed Bart as well. Just a beautiful, beautiful story about making the impossible possible,” he said.
Millard told CBN News during “Imagine’s” premier in Nashville that the filmmakers did an outstanding job capturing his story of pain, redemption and faith.
“The first time I saw it, it was really emotional,” he said. “I guess they did a good job because they stirred some emotions that I spent most of my life trying to bury.”
Quaid said that he had never heard the multi-platinum, best-selling Christian single of all time “I Can Only Imagine” before being approached about being in the movie.
“What rock was I under?” he wondered.
“I hadn’t heard the song, but when I read the script it hit me so profoundly in the heart in a place where I don’t even have words,” Quaid said. “And that’s what the song does and it grows on you, too. Just like you grow in the Spirit, the song grows on you in that way, too. In the end, it’s just a song of joy.”
The actor made his own musical contribution to “I Can Only Imagine’s” soundtrack, writing and performing “On My Way To Heaven.”
“I wrote it for my mom because my mom has always been there, her faith is unquestionable, so solid,” Quaid recalled. “So I wrote it for her, but I guess it’s my story.”
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