Celebrity Interview: Talking with Dennis Quaid on the Making of I Can Only Imagine

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Dennis Quaid stars in the faith based I Can Only Imagine, which opens this weekend with the power behind the belief that faith can transform, and captivates from the opening scenes giving a tour de force performance.

Directed by Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, I Can Only Imagine also stars J. Michael Finley, Madeline Carroll, Cloris Leachman, Trace Adkins, Tanya Clarke, Rhonda Griffis, David Norona, J.R. Cacia, Jason Burkey, Nicole Depont, Mark Furze, Kevin Downes, Randy McDowell, Priscilla C. Shirer, Jake B. Miler, with Taegen Burns and Brody Rose.

Quaid's portrayal as Arthur, the father of Mercy Me's Bart Millard, an abusive, violent, bitter man who ends his relationship with his son with one violent outburst, was flawless and impressive.

Speaking with Mr. Quaid at the press day we talked on the making of the film, his father, the future.

Creating Arthur

Janet Walker: Congratulations on the film. Powerful performance, incredibly powerful.

Dennis Quaid: It's a powerful story. Really they way I felt is that all I had to do was get out of the way. The story could really tell itself. No matter what's on the page. We had to create something out of nothing. Myself, J. Michael, Andy and John. That's when it worked the best when we got out of the way of it.

JW: Well, tell me how you became Arthur

DQ: I didn't know the song "I Can Only Imagine." I was sent me the CD and the song and the script at the same time. I sat aside the CD and read the script and felt it was the only time I would be an audience first time member to experience it for the first time. It profoundly hit me, the story, and that's why I was there. And then I got there and the first day Bart was there, Bart was there quite often.

And I sat Bart down and had him tell me his story from his mouth about his father's past. I learned a lot about Arthur not even in the story he was telling me just looking at Bart and the feelings I got from him as he was telling the story.

And so my father was not an abusive father, my father was a great guy, and I'm very proud of my father, even before doing this movie because his father was somewhat of an abusive father and he might have had broken that chain because he was not the way his father was, to us which usually happens its passed along. You know what I mean? So he's broken the chain and we didn't have to carry any of that.


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Bart's Dad, Arthur was abusive physically, emotionally, verbally and he made Bart feel bad about himself everyday from his childhood to well into teens. And abusive parents were usually abused so by family or something. I don't know about that. He's dreams were unattained. That's not excuse for abuse.

People in those positions are not really unaware. That went on until Bart was gone. He left home early, for survival really. Mom's was not around and Bart's Dad got cancer, a death sentence cancer. He didn't tell any, no one knew. He wanted it kept a secret. He didn't want to show weakness.

And He had a Spiritual awakening. And it truly changed his desire to have a relationship with his son. You can't lie when you pray, no matter how hard you try, you know what I mean? You can lie to yourself but when you get to the point where you're praying . . . It was divine intervention and God, kind of gave him a path, and gave Bart a path back to this place, and that's when the hard part started because it was very hard for Bart to forgive him, truly forgive.

And I think Arthur was seeking forgiveness and had a heart's desire to have that closeness with his son. And the hard part for Arthur was forgiving himself. And that's when he really saw it and once he really realized who he had been and what he had done.

He had a spiritual awakening through Jesus, through Christianity, he began to deepen, and you can call it a death row conversion, and I know its real because of Bart. And over time, in increments, but overtime, they came to a place they had a very close loving relationship with each other.

The Making of the Film

JW: I'm so pressed for time and I do want to ask you: The violence on screen in generally implied except for the he is hit with the plate. Can you describe that scene?

DQ: We worked on it; on how to do it. And fortunately it was with the grown Bart and not the boy. Very carefully done and all of that. And in a way the implied violence leaves a lot to your imagination, which makes it more selling than the plate, which is a breakaway plate, and to tell you the truth it was kind of silly the way we did it because you have to do those things technically and at the same time they have to be believable.

JW: Ok. So What was the most challenging part of playing Arthur?

DQ: Of playing Arthur? We came to work every day, with J. Michael, Andy and John and getting there no matter what's on the page we had to go to these places that's going to be real. And literally not a comfortable place to be and getting there is very daunting because you have to make something out of nothing, really.

And there is Bart watching. He was on the set quite a bit often watching his life unfold. He had the courage to tell the story we wanted to get it right, the essence of it, for him.


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JW: I had heard you came on to this film late. Was there a reason?

DQ: I was working on something else actually. Right before this so that's the reason.

The Future

JW: You've got such a great body of work. If you had a career bucket list of something you haven't done and you want to do what would it be?

DQ: I don't have that. Films find me. Stories, if it's a comedy that makes me laugh, they kind of find me. Usually the things I want to do would be the things I'm afraid to do, you know what I mean, and wouldn't chose that, as a bucket list. It strikes fear in me, like this one did actually then that's usually an indicator that I should do it because it puts me in place where I'm not comfortable.

JW: So what is next for you.

DQ: When I leave here, I'm heading to the North Pole. I'm shooting a series called Fortitude. We're shooting the interiors in London and the exteriors in the Northern Antarctica, 200 miles from the North Pole.

I Can Only Imagine opens in theaters everywhere March 16, 2018.

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