by Edwin L. Carpenter – Editor, The Dove Foundation
The Dove Foundation was able to recently take part in a conference call/press junket with some of the people involved in the animated film “The Ten Commandments.” This group included Cindy Bond (president, COO, Promenade Pictures), Ed Naha (screenwriter of this film and acclaimed family screenwriter of “Honey I Shrunk The Kids”), Jeremy Camp (Christian artist, GMA 2005 Best Male Artist of the Year, wrote and performed the song “I Am Willing” for “The Ten Commandments” film), as well as Academy Award nominee Elliott Gould (‘God’ in “The Ten Commandments” film), and Dr. Ron Wexler (president, CEO of the Ten Commandment’s Commission), who was our guide in overseeing the interview.
Dr. Wexler informed us that there is an upcoming vote in congress in November on a House resolution, number 598, “to make the first Sunday in May the Ten Commandments Day.” There is a belief that there is an illiteracy regarding the Ten Commandments in the country, with many people not knowing more than one or two of the Ten Commandments. This is based on a survey conducted by Dr. Wexler’s commission which revealed that most people could list the name of the ingredients in a Big Mac, and the names of the Brady Bunch kids, but not more than one or two of the Ten Commandments. Anyone wishing to learn more about this petition, can check out the website at: www.tencommandmentsday.com
The film stars the voices of Sir Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Christian Slater and Elliott Gould. Dr. Wexler kicked off the interview by asking Cindy Bond what she hoped to accomplish for the Ten Commandments, in producing this film.
“The reason I made the Ten Commandments was because as a mother, as an industry professional, as a wife, as someone whose grown up in a Christian household since I was a child, I’ve watched the heart and the values of society erode. I felt something needed to be done. My journey into Hollywood has been led by a calling on my life to use the most powerful medium in the world to impact the hearts and minds of everyone around the world—to better the world, specifically be a seed planter for godly types of initiatives.”
“When we came up with the idea to do a series of films, of which there are twelve in the series– the Ten Commandments is the most powerful story, certainly in the Old Testament. I felt this is the one to launch the series because the Ten Commandments are the entire backbone for the reason this nation was started. It is critically important for the Ten Commandments to be brought back into society which is why I applaud the efforts and all the hard work of Dr. Wexler and the Ten Commandments Commission because this is the foundation for who we are as a nation.”
Dr. Wexler agreed. “We have witnessed the decay of society. I can’t conceive of any better topic than the Ten Commandments Commission, to actually bring the Ten Commandments and the word of God back to the heart and soul of this nation.”
Ed Naha next answered a question posed by Dr. Wexler: How do you write a screenplay based on the word of God? “It was interesting,” he replied. “It’s almost like you have to grow a second head! On the one hand you’re dealing with the Bible. When you’re adapting any work you have to edit. So you’re in a position where (he cleared his voice for effect), “I’m going to have to edit God. At the same time you have to keep in mind that you’re gearing this up as entertainment that will appeal to families. So you have to worry about, for instance, can you show blood? Where can you show blood? Do you excise the battle scenes? What do you keep? You also have to develop characters. Everyone thinks of Moses, for instance, as Charlton Heston. That’s ingrained in our thought. Many people who think they know the story of the Ten Commandments actually know the Cecil B. DeMille movie as opposed to what’s in the Bible.”
“So we had to find a personality for Moses who was actually a very reluctant prophet. He tries to talk himself out of a job. It’s literally a leap of faith for Moses to accept the job of being God’s voice. The other aspect we kept in mind is that everyone considers God this angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament. And I grew up Catholic. In the trinity we’re taught it’s God the Father. So I tried to create a personality for God as a fatherly figure, and I have to say that when I first heard the tapes of Elliott Gould as this fatherly God I was just totally blown away. I wrote this and I had a great inspiration to write it but at a certain point it’s not yours anymore. And the exciting thing for me is that this will hopefully appeal to people who know the Bible but it may also interest people who don’t know the Bible to maybe pick it up and read the entire story.”
Dr. Wexler asked Elliott Gould a very appropriate question following Ed Naha’s comments. What was it like to play God? “I had a wonderful director (John Stronach) and Frank Yablans was producing this, who is a friend of mine. It’s a great responsibility in relation to a history, a tradition, and the faiths of so many people. To bring one’s voice to something as significant as that which God represents in this story and beyond, so it was a very humbling and important opportunity for me. I’m very grateful for that.”
Dr. Wexler cracked up the participants when he said he enjoyed Elliott’s voice so much as God and that the last voice he heard as God, George Burns, just didn’t leave him with the same response! Moving on to a more serious tone, Dr. Wexler complimented Jeremy Camp for his song “I Am Willing” and asked him about its genesis.
“I was just talking with my manager a few years ago, saying I would love to be more involved in bringing the stage a little more back into the mainstream culture. The songs that I write are very personal. When I first got involved in the Narnia soundtrack and movie, it really moved me and really gave me a heart to write songs pertaining to essentially this biblical movie ‘The Ten Commandments.’ Moses had a hard time stepping out at first and he was saying to God, ‘I’m not a very eloquent speaker. I’m not a man I feel can be used in that aspect.’ But as you see later he ends up being used mightily by God and in such a powerful way, and so for me this song came about by thinking about Moses, but also thinking how humbling it is for me to be used in this industry to bring encouragement to people in some aspect. So I actually thought a lot about myself as I wrote this song and it starts off, ‘What do you see in me? I’m just a man of all these insecurities.’ And that’s just how I feel sometimes. ‘Lord, I am unworthy to stand on stage or to sing these songs or to tell people about you because I know how wretched I can be.’”
“But I think that’s all of us. We are unworthy. But by His grace, He has made us worthy.” He said the song came about that way, realizing that he felt like Moses, unworthy, but that “I am willing.”
A lot of heart and conviction went into this film. We have reviewed it at Dove and it is a well told story and a feast for the eyes. We recommend it as a family movie and hope many people will go to see it.
Read Dove’s Review of “The Ten Commandments“