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Interview with Producer Mickey Liddell: "Risen" is Keeping It Real
Interview with Producer Mickey Liddell: "Risen" is Keeping It Real

Interview with Producer Mickey Liddell: "Risen" is Keeping It Real

by Melinda Ledman

After a screening of Risen at Sony studios, I sat down with producer Mickey Liddell to ask a few questions. I knew it would be good since Rich Peluso, Senior Vice President of Sony Affirm Films, had introduced him this way earlier in the day, “He was such a driving force in making this [film], being so receptive in working together to figure out: how do we tell this story?”

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How to tell the resurrection story from a Roman's point of view? That is tough. Producing historical fiction in any form is challenging, particularly when there aren't many ancillary details surrounding an event. When I asked Liddell what kept him going through some of the toughest days of the project, he referred back to this challenge. He said, “One of the most difficult things about telling this story was finding the balance between staying committed to being biblically accurate- which was so important to us- and telling this really amazing fictional story that so many of us can identify with.”  He continued, “At one point during the editing process, we were really struggling with finding that balance and I remember feeling such a weight of responsibility to tell this story the right way. After many frustrating nights trying to rework the order of a few scenes, it just hit me. I woke up and just had a really clear vision of how we should change a few things. And I felt a real sense of peace with the story. I know that was a ‘God thing’.” 

During our meeting, I asked Liddell what drew him to the story in the first place. He replied, “I love the story of the resurrection. I think it is so important. And I thought it would be incredible if audiences around the world [could] see and have that feeling of what that Resurrection feels like. Even in the worst of times, there’s zero hope in the world they live in. So, to me it was important to tell that story about the resurrection and get it on film so that you could leave the theater and say, ‘That’s really what Jesus paid for.’”

In Risen, the account of Jesus’ resurrection is told through the eyes of a Roman commander who is tasked with finding the missing body of Christ. Clearly, the Romans didn’t believe he had risen. The doubt of the lead character brings a fresh perspective to an otherwise familiar resurrection story (to Christians, anyway). I asked Liddell what else about the film shed new light on the story. “I think Cliff Curtis’ portrayal of Jesus was so amazing and was a performance unlike anything we have seen in other Biblical movies. He was so loving and warm, and he conveyed so much with just a look or a nod. It was just so moving,” he said.

As a huge fan of this movie, I couldn’t wait to find out what was Liddell’s favorite part of the movie. Not surprisingly, he replied, “Getting to work with such an amazing cast. Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Cliff Curtis, Maria Botto and Peter Firth were all just wonderful and brought a real sense of authenticity to the film. They had an incredible bond with each other and really made this project something to be so proud of.”

Since producers have to spend all their time off camera, I was curious who he would pick if he could play one of the characters in the film. “I would definitely play Clavius [the main character]. I, like so many people who have seen this film, can really identify with his struggles, his doubt and his overall journey. Clavius struggles with who he is, what he wants, and what he believes, all while experiencing things he cannot ignore.”

That is the human condition that Risen taps into. All Christians have experienced a struggle at one time or another, and many non-believers equally wrestle with it.  Liddell said, “I really love Life Church Pastor Craig Groeschel’s take on this- after seeing the film. He encouraged Christians to use Risen as a tool to invite their friends who aren’t believers, because the story is told from the perspective of a nonbeliever. So it is like seeing this story for the first time. This movie really brings people together and isn’t divisive in any way. So I think Christians should feel really great about inviting nonbelievers to Risen.” 

It’s not just nonbelievers who will appreciate Risen. The film's devotion to the Biblical story is one of the reasons that Risen is receiving such great reception among Christian audiences as well.  Peluso said, “They're just relieved that it's not like the two big Bible movies of last year, in that it didn't take liberties beyond acceptable levels in their mind. So they were relieved, and we're excited that Christians feel like they can embrace this story." It looks like all of Liddell’s sleepless nights will pay off!

Risen opens in theaters nationwide on February 19, 2016.


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- Romans 6:23

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