|J. Michael Finley and Dennis Quaid in I Can Only Imagine. (Lionsgate)|
MOVIESWhile it probably isn't always the case, Dennis Quaid seems to always play the nice guy. Undercover Blues...nice. Innerspace...nice. The Parent Trap...nice. Soul Surfer...super nice. I Can Only Imagine...monster.
Billed as "The song you know. The story you don't," I Can Only Imagine tells the story behind the MercyMe super-popular song of the same name. Amazingly, the song was written in mere minutes by lead singer Bart Millard. In reality, those lyrics took a lifetime to craft.
Bart grew up in Greenville, Texas where he was often abused physically and emotionally by his father, Arthur. His mother could handle abuse and chose to leave the two to fend for themselves. Bart leaned into an active imagination and his love of music as escapes from a troubled home life. As he grew older, Bart turned to football in hopes of somehow connecting with his abusive father. But a career-ending injury—combined with the vision of a teacher who saw unlimited potential—set Bart on a musical pathway. Then Arthur got sick.
“Bart had to take care of his father every night from midnight until 2 a.m.,” says Andy Irwin, one half of the Irwin Brothers who directed October Baby, Mom's Night Out and Woodlawn. “As we interviewed him for this project, we said, ‘If we were to hold a gun to your head and ask, is there a God, what would you say?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely, there is.’ When we asked why, he said, ‘Because of the change I saw in my father. He went from being a monster to being my best friend, the man I wanted to be.’ And so during the two years that Bart took care of his dad, their relationship was completely redeemed.”
“I just thought it was a compelling, universal story,” says Quaid. “I’ve done a lot of father-son stories, and this was different in a way because it wasn’t so, should I say… Hollywood? What attracted me to Arthur was that he was a guy who has redemption in the end. But he starts from a very low place.”
The phrase “I Can Only Imagine” first occurred to Millard when leaving his father’s gravesite, as he wondered what his dad might be seeing in heaven. “For me, the thought was very therapeutic because it was just too overwhelming to think of him being gone," says Millard. "And so I started thinking more about what he was seeing, more than him just not being in my life.”
Ironically, it was this movie that inspired Quaid to finish a song he wrote for this mother and in the video below, he shares his own story about his faith and the finishing of the song.
I Can Only Imagine stars J. Michael Finley, Madeline Carroll, Trace Adkins, Priscilla C. Shirer, with Cloris Leachman and Dennis Quaid. The movie opens in theaters on Friday, March 13, 2018. Click here to watch the trailer. To learn more about the film, visit the official movie website.