My youngest son, Shane, suggested the family watch the 2010 movie, The Encounter, while scrolling through Netflix. After watching the movie, I was so touched by Bruce's portrayal of Jesus I decided to look him up and send him a thank you note. I asked him if he would be willing to share some thoughts about his life as an actor. Here is Bruce's welcome video message followed by the phone interview Bruce granted for my blog readers...
"Good morning, Bruce. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions today about your life as an actor. My son, Shane, picked out The Encounter for our family to watch together and you did a great job in the movie. Thanks for agreeing to an interview today."
"How old is your son?" Bruce questioned.
"Sixteen." I replied.
"My fifteen-year-old is also named Shane," he said. (Cue the Twilight Zone music).
Bruce apologized for the dog barking on the other end of the line.
"What kind of dog do you have?" I asked.
"My wife found Paco, a stray, and brought him home. As you can hear, he's part chihuahua."
My hair began to stand up as I told him our youngest dog is also a chihuahua, a stray we adopted from a shelter. That eerie feeling continued throughout the interview, as if I were having a regular conversation with Jesus. Come down to earth, I thought as I asked my first question...
Bruce, can you please share with my readers how it feels to play the role of Jesus as an actor?
Playing Jesus is humbling. There is also this sense of excitement. It's so beyond exciting for many reasons. He is the most pivotal figure in the history of the universe. Knowing the Lord, understanding what playing Him counts for...and at the same time, it's heavy with responsibility. It's the pinnacle of fear and trembling mixed with excitement.
Was there an "aha" moment in your life when the light bulb went off and Jesus became real for you?
There were three moments...the time I gave my life to Jesus, the time period shortly thereafter and the surrounding circumstances; and also during the making of the film. I grew up going to church so I knew all the stories. As a young actor in 1989 I had experienced success...but I fast discovered that success can disintegrate, and it was dangerous to build life on things that could fall apart.
There was this confrontation with truth as stark as boiling water. I knew it was Him. I was on a hill overlooking Universal Studios. Everything below me represented everything in life I wanted, and it was like I had to make a choice what was going to rule my life. I got down on my knees and cried, "Jesus you've got to save me." There was no emotional response, however, there was this weight off my shoulders...no more burdens. I stood up and had a whole new life.
Please share your thoughts on your latest project, Jesus...No Greater Love. How did you get the vision for this project and what is your role?
Currently I have three roles...writer, producer and actor. The writing portion is already done. Because it's such a huge film, I will pass off the producer role to someone more experienced, and I may also pass off the acting role - I'm open to that. At the same time, the vision rests with me, and that is a key spiritual role.
In the Gospel of Matthew, the power of the Gospel on film got results. People were changing en masse. The production quality was low due to insufficient funds. The business interests controlled. I believe the Gospel has to be free to reach as many people as possible. Jesus says you can't serve God and money. The first movie served investors and sales. In the middle of my speaking tours, I thought if I could do this again, another Jesus movie but on a full budget, one that stood up with main stream films, free of conflict of interests, I would do it using the Gospel of John.
The opening scenes of the script came to me while eating my ham sandwich in Johannesburg, South Africa. I scribbled them on a napkin...in the beginning was the word and word was God.
Matthew was a huge film in South Africa. People didn't know He loved them that way...impassioned, the sun rises and sets in you. The revelation of His heart became the cornerstone. People were saying "I didn't know Jesus loved me like this."
As an actor, I study choices that the character makes. A man's heart is revealed by his actions. You can tell who a man is by his choices. He gave up everything to the point of His blood dripping in the sand. Why? Why? Why? What's the end game?
What Jesus did was obvious. He gave His life for YOU.
What motivates you to get up in the morning?
People need the Lord. I thank God every day I don't have an occupation to just earn money. And personally, my kids need their dad.
The non-believers who worked alongside you when you played Jesus were affected by how you portrayed Jesus. Can you share how their lives changed?
Even the believers were blown away. It was the depth of love, both in Matthew and the Encounter. There was a moment in the Encounter where one of the characters rejects Jesus. In character, I began profusely weeping as the character walks out the door. You could hear a pin drop when the camera cut...the guys were blown away. That's how Jesus feels. Imagine how your heart breaks when your kids make bad choices. Multiply that times a ka-billion, and there you have the heart of Jesus.
The mother of the young girl in the movie told me later that her daughter asked her, "is that really how Jesus feels?"
This scene did not make the final cut. It did show Jesus weeping because of the pain He felt.
We filmed Matthew in the villages of Morocco. The workers were all Muslims. Many people who were there came to the Lord. I remember them all saying, "I had no idea who Jesus was until today."
Why is it important to you to share Jesus with the world in places far off like Africa?
People need the Lord. At the end of the day, everything withers...the BMW, the checkbook. All that's left standing is you and Him.
You have witnessed healing in audiences when you are speaking about Jesus. Can you describe the feedback you've received about what happened to these people?
It blows my mind. There's no explanation, not en masse. Wow! That's great, the real thing.
Years ago I was in a village in Africa and this man comes running up. He attended the service the evening before. Years before, his leg was badly damaged in an accident and he could no longer work. But there he was running around. He said, "ask the people in the village, they know me, that I couldn't us this leg. Now I'm healed!"
This past September, the same man approached me. He asked, "remember me?" He rolled up his pants to show me the scars. But his leg works 100%. God is alive.
What is your fondest memory?
My finest moment was standing with my wife and getting married. This is your portion in life. My family is God's hand of goodness. I'm thankful for my wife and kids.
In my acting career, the experience of making Matthew... it was an adventure. There was this fresh revelation of Jesus, and it was like living life as large as life could be lived.
What is your hope for people reading this interview?
That they come to know His heart for them.
How can my blog readers help you with your future vision?
My vision for Jesus... No Greater Love is donation based. If people could log on and give $10 that would be great. An Armenian guy here in L.A. raised $700 from approaching his friends saying, "give me ten dollars for a good cause." So there are many ways to help, and I'm very thankful, because it will take all of us coming together.
At the end of the interview, I asked Bruce if he had any idea when his next Jesus movie will be released and he told me he had thrown his hands up in the air saying, "the sooner the better," but only God knows.
I thought to myself, the last time I remember Moses throwing his hands up in the air, the Red Sea parted and God's people were free. Please click on Bruce's message below and support his vision to share Jesus with the world. Don't forget to tell your friends.