The New York Times ran “nearly 900 film reviews in 2013,” according to the Times itself. That’s not quite three films per day, but it’s getting close. With that huge number of motion pictures being made each year (and certainly the Times didn’t review every one), it might surprise you to know that Focus on the Family has gone out on a limb only a handful of times to give an endorsement. That’s not to say there haven’t been hundreds of family-friendly films we could have recommended. It’s just that, as a rule, we don’t. I could count on just my fingers how many times Focus has, via the radio broadcast, actually encouraged listeners to buy a movie ticket. The Passion of the Christ. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Fireproof. To name a few of the few.
But back in 2006 when the pro-life film Bella was releasing, Focus on the Family made one of those rare exceptions and rallied behind it (you can read our review here). Eduardo Verástegui, the movie’s co-producer and star told Plugged In back then that he knew his inspiring little flick was going to have its challenges at the box office. But Verástegui viewed the success of Bella differently than most people in the industry. “What I’d love to see happen with this film is to someday have this 12-year-old knock on my door and say that her mother was going to have an abortion. But she saw this film,” he said. “That would be my Oscar.”
Now another Verástegui-produced film, Little Boy, is rolling out to theaters, officially opening nationwide tomorrow. I caught up with this actor/singer/producer to get the scoop, plus details on his personal life. First and foremost I wanted to know how he came to Christ.
Verástegui explained how his father wanted him to become a lawyer, but he had a different dream in mind. So he set off from his small town of Xicotencati, Mexico, at age 18 to move to Mexico City in hopes of becoming a singer and actor. Things clicked and he started singing in a popular boy band called Kairo. About three-and-a-half years later he started acting in Mexican telenovelas. Then at age 28, with a film opportunity in the works, Verástegui moved to L.A. to immerse himself in the study of English.
In the process of learning this new language, Verástegui’s teacher began to ask him questions that revolutionized his life. He thought it was all part of normal language lessons. She, on the other hand, wanted to plant spiritual seeds, asking such questions as, What is the purpose of life? Who is God in your life? Who do you die for? “Who do you live for?” “I was very empty,” explained Verástegui. “Something was missing in my life and I didn’t know what it was,” he told me. “God was part of my life, but not the center of my life. Because of her somehow, she opened my eyes.”
Having seen Little Boy twice, my impression of the movie was that it was a good, family-friendly film, but not an explicitly Christian film like Courageous would be. I asked him about that, particularly since Little Boy’s been marketed heavily to the Christian community.
“Well, you’re right,” Verástegui responded. “First of all this movie is a mainstream family-friendly movie for everyone. That’s pretty much our goal with our company. …Our hope as filmmakers is that when people leave the theater they will leave inspired to love more and judge less. …Hopefully people will leave full of not just popcorn and soda, but full of hope, love and faith.”
I then inquired how Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (both of whom are listed as executive producers) got involved with Little Boy. Verástegui explained: “One day we were screening the movie and Mark Burnett came. He was invited by a friend. He saw the movie and he was very touched; he loved the movie. He said, ‘Eduardo, how can I help you? … I have no agenda other than I just saw the movie and I want to make sure that everybody sees this movie because this movie is designed to make this world a better place.’”
Verástegui would naturally like for Little Boy to be a financial success. But he does his best to not think about such matters. Again, like Bella, his priorities are elsewhere. “[When] you start thinking [about the money], you don’t sleep especially when you’re close to the release. So, I let my other business partners deal with that while I’m promoting the movie.”
In closing, I want to share a few thoughts that Verástegui had about the influence of today’s media. He often came across in our interview as someone who could be on the Plugged In team. Although media questions are common for me to ask, his thoughts about the power of entertainment came about as he shared his testimony, not from any inquiry on my part. Here are three powerful nuggets from our chat:
“…I was using my talents in a selfish way. I forgot that whatever project I was involved with, whether I liked it or not, would affect how people think, how they live, how they behave, especially in people who have this tendency to imitate what they see and feel on television.”
“I believe that art has the power to heal and to bring people together.”
“…at the same time I realized how much media influences how people think. That’s when I made a promise to my parents and I made a promise to God that I would never use my talents again to do anything that would offend my faith, my family or my Mexican culture.”