Just months after Christians have been witnessed avoiding the big screen in droves with reports of extensive biblical inaccuracies in movies such as Noah and Exodus, movie director Tim Chey is looking to draw them back to the box office with what he calls a "biblically correct" portrayal in David and Goliath. And he promises "no rock monsters."
Offering assurances at a recent press junket in Los Angeles that he has stayed away from embellishing the biblical account of David and Goliath, Chey contends that it's not his heart to draw more viewers by "Hollywoodizing" a story to add to graphic visuals and sell more tickets.
"Well first off, I'm not only a director, but also an evangelist," Chey insists, noting that he's as comfortable behind a church podium as he is behind a movie camera. "So obviously, I'm not going to make a film that's biblically not correct or does not give honor to the Lord."
David and Goliath has been in the works for over a decade and is the latest of Chey's 10 feature films, which include the $20-million Carry Me Home with Cuba Gooding, Jr., Suing the Devil with Malcolm McDowell and Genius Club with Stephen Baldwin. He also directed Epic Journey, which was filmed on location in 29 different countries and submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for most nations visited for a feature motion picture.
Truth over pizazz
Anticipated to rival last year's blockbuster hits Noah, which drew in $101 million domestically and $363 million worldwide, and Exodus: God and Kings, which took in $65 million in the U.S. and $253 million globally, David and Goliath's platform release is slated for the big screen April 3.
With a movie budget only one-half to one-third that of Noah ($120 million) and Exodus ($140 million), Chey's more modest $50 million to work with — on location in the North African desert of Morocco and studio sets in London — still puts it under the category of a "big-budget film." It may not have the big names of Noah's Russell Crowe or Exodus' Christian Bale, but David and Goliath features 7-foot 8-inch Jerry Sokolosky as Goliath, British actor Miles Sloman as David and Paul Hughes as King Saul — in more of an effort to accurately fit the roles than gain name resonance.
Chey says that his film's rendition of David and Goliath is tailored for a discerning Christian audience and is also intended to be a testimony of great faith to secular moviegoers.
"There are no rock monsters helping David, unfortunately," Chey joked with reporters. "But kidding aside, I wanted to make a film that will reinvigorate the kind of faith the future King of Israel had – namely fighting a giant with a zero-percent chance of defeating him outside of God."
Modern-day testimony from an ancient story
Chey attempts to do some sort of justice to one of the most compelling stories of faith divulged through the Bible, realizing that faith should continue to play a large role in Christians' lives today. In the film, he highlights one of the greatest heroes of all time, David, who defied all odds to come out victorious — being completely reliant on God to take down the colossal enemy.
When asked whether that kind of faith exists in the Church today, Chey noted that there is a great departure from champions of the faith witnessed in Old Testament times, such as David, Abraham, Moses, Noah and Daniel.
"I have a pastor friend who says he doesn't know anyone in his large church who would fight Goliath today," Chey shared with reporters. "Sad testament to the state of our faith today."
Meet the director
For those curious about Chey's coming to faith and drive behind producing David and Goliath, Chey had this to say:
"I was a former atheist who found Christ in a hotel room after reading a Gideon's Bible in Manila," Chey told The Christian Post (CP) last year. "I never looked back after that. Our production company has had this film David and Goliath in the works for almost 11 years. We realized to film it right we needed to shoot the film on a grand scale (much like Lawrence of Arabia). It's one of the most incredible stories in the Bible about faith. In this case, it was much greater than a mustard seed."
And what exactly does Chey want people to know about the film before its release?
"First off, it will be biblically correct in every way," Chey promised CP, directed at those disillusioned with other biblically themed box-office hits. "But I want to show more of the cruelty of who the Philistines were and who Goliath was through historical data. Also, I want to flesh out the powerful fear Goliath instilled on Saul's army. Also, David's brothers — the incredible tears they must have shed knowing their little brother was going to take on the nine-foot warrior. It could have been a Shakespearean tragedy, but turned into a victory through God."
Asked about his take on Darren Aronofsky's Noah and other films based on biblical themes but lacking in biblical accuracy, Chey was quite candid.
"He should have changed the title," Chey asserted. "It's the same thing with the movie Lincoln from Steven Spielberg — it had nothing to do with Lincoln, but the 13th Amendment. What a disappointment that was. It's Hollywood's way to market and profit off the faith-based community while winking at the secular community and saying 'We're still one of you, don't worry.' This is why true believers have to step up and make the biblical films."
A director after God's own heart
Chey shared that when people are walking up the aisles as David and Goliath's credits are rolling, he wants this rolling through their hearts and minds:
"I want them to be moved to tears and increase their faith in the true and living God," Chey told CP. "I want them to stop being lukewarm. To make a stand for God. To slay the demonic giants who beseech us in this life. I want them to leave the theater and say I will make a stand for the Lord and tell those giants You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God."
David and Goliath, produced by RiverRain Productions, set out last year to raise $10 million in prints and advertising so that it will reportedly be viewed on more than 1,000 screens for its nationwide release on April 3.