Celebrity Interviews: Directors Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin Talk on The Making of "I Can Only Imagine"

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I Can Only Imagine, directed by Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, has, since its mid-march release, been breaking performance expectations and now as it begins its second month in theaters is closing in on the 100MM dollar mark.

During the film's pre-release media day the directors and talent were participating the media day for the film, which in the faith and family genre was exceptional and obviously that translated beyond the critics who at times can be harsh or overly glowing.

With Dennis Quaid in the lead, the film was destined to have box office longevity and draw, even with the challenges theaters face with streaming so readily available, I Can Only Imagine has remained solid with a good shot of passing the 100MM mark over the next month.

Bart Millard, the lead singer of the popular Christian Band, Mercy Me, was played in the movie by newcomer to the screen J. Michael Finley, who is well known for his work on Broadway. Millard wrote a song titled I Can Only  Imagine, which became the most successful Christian single in history crossing every demographic. The lyrics as he explains came in about ten minutes; ten minutes after a lifetime of hurt, heartache and finally forgiveness. I Can Only Imagine also stars Cloris Leachman and Madeline Carroll as Shannon.


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


Having the opportunity, during the media day to interview the Directors of I Can Only Imagine, Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, below is an excerpt.

Janet Walker: So congratulations. It's a powerful, exceptionally powerful. So tell me how, other than it came from a song, so tell me how it came to your desk and how it became a scripted project?

Jon Erwin: That came from Andy's relationship with Bart.

Andrew Erwin: We would do artist's screenings with music artists to help promote previous work and so we had one in Nashville and we invited a bunch of music artist to an just on a whim we invited Bart Millard from Mercy Me and said 'Hey we'd love you to come to movie night. So he, after it was over, he came down to the front and talked and said, 'Hey I love you all's story telling. I don't know if you know this but a movie studio has been developing my life story for the past five years, and my relationship with my father. And I love for you guys to consider directing it.' And I said, 'I don't know if you know this, but they sent us the script this morning.'

And it was just kind of meant to be and we became fast friends. And we were still trying to figure out what the movie was but the Amy Grant angle that we talked about where she launched Bart's career.

We were doing on a morning show, promoting one of our films, and they asked us on the air what stories we were thinking of doing next, and we said Bart Millard story and the story of I Can Only Imagine, and he said, 'Oh my goodness, I was on there that night when Amy Grant gave him his song back.' It was the most magic thing I've ever seen in music. And I said, 'I don't know about this story.' So we called Bart and asked, 'Did this happen?' And he said, 'I was going to tell you guys that.The first night my real life exceeded my imagination.' And then we felt like we had all the tentpoles to the movie and that's when Jon and Grant and the screenwriters took over and began digging into those story lines.

Jon: Yea. To me, I think it starts with the story that moves us and we can't stop thinking about. And I have been a huge fan of I Can Only Imagine. There's song you know, and there songs you love and then there are songs that do something fundamental to you.

And for me "Imagine" speaks to hope at a time when we were losing our nephew to a brain tumor. It was like this anchor and I probably listened to it 500 hundred times in a row. It was some sort of therapy to Just listening to the song closing my eyes and imagine a world without pain, without suffering.

So I had that and didn't know there was this incredible story behind the song as we learned it from Bart. I remember vividly, I said 'Bart how do you know that God is real, I'm just curious?' And he said, 'because of the changes I saw in my dad, I watched a monster transform in front of eyes to man I wanted to become and into my best friend.

And I do believe forgiveness is the highest form of love, and as Bart forgave his Dad their relationship completely mended and that's so relatable. That relatable beyond the faith audience.


I Can Only Imagine Review - Inspiring, Ensemble Cast Shines in this Character Driven Film


That's just a relationship between a father and son is one of the most relatable stories you can tell. And so I couldn't stop thinking about it after that moment, and I thought we've got to figure out how to get this to the screen and so with millions and millions of fans of the song, of which I am one of the song, which we feel is a song about heaven, but in reality it is a song about son relationship with his father and I feel that is powerful and special needed thing.

I Can Only Imagine is playing in theaters everywhere. See the film. It is exceptionally powerful.

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