Note: This commentary was delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, Mary said yes to God. She shows us when God asks something of us-no matter how risky, big, or troubling it may seem-the proper response is, “Yes, Lord.”
That’s precisely the lesson the makers of the life-affirming movie Bella learned on an improbable journey of faith, which ended with the production of one of the most acclaimed movies of 2007. Last year, I encouraged you to go out and see this extraordinary film about a guilt-torn man and his encounter with a woman contemplating the future of her unwanted pregnancy.
But as told in author Tim Drake’s marvelous new book Behind Bella, the behind-the-scenes story of the movie’s conception is equally compelling. The leading actor in the movie Bella, Eduardo Verastegui, had known his fair share of fame. At home in Mexico, he modeled, sung for a popular boy band, and earned the title “the Brad Pitt of Mexico” starring in soap operas. But the playboy lifestyle that he led left him empty and looking for more out of life.
When he moved to L.A. to take a role in a movie about a three-timing Don Juan, his language coach, a devout Catholic, began questioning him on the drug-dealer and Latin lover roles he was always taking. Asking questions like, “Are you using your gifts to make a difference?” Eduardo’s coach helped lead Eduardo back to the faith of his childhood.
“I realized that I was offending God and poisoning the culture with the projects I was choosing,” says Eduardo in Behind Bella. Eduardo went to a priest, where he confessed that he had been a horrible sinner and desperately needed guidance. He also told the priest that he wanted to leave Hollywood and do missionary work in Brazil.
The priest told him, “You can’t leave. God opened your eyes here. You need to stay. You want to go the jungle, but Hollywood is a bigger jungle. God has plans for you.”
For two years, Eduardo turned down projects that did not reflect his values. He was running through his savings-almost to the point of having to sell his house and live out of his car. But he was still faithfully attending Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills.
That’s where he met Leo Severino, a former law student turned producer who had been converted while reading C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. Severino invited Eduardo to a class he taught called “Going Deeper.” It was for people who wanted to learn more about Jesus. While Eduardo grew in his faith, both men dreamed about starting a production company, one they would eventually name Metanoia Films–for the Greek word meaning conversion.
Eduardo also met Alejandro Monteverde, a writer who shared similar values of faith. Alejandro sold his home to move to L.A. to work with Eduardo. On the drive, the story of Bella came to him out of the blue.
Eduardo, Leo, and Alejandro were joined by key financial investors who chose to make an investment in Bella, one that seemed foolish by the world’s standards. They did so because each felt the Holy Spirit strongly urging them in that direction.
In short, God was leading His people through a series of risky and improbable “Yeses” to something God wanted to do through them: to make a film, which, as I’ll share tomorrow, would literally save lives.
[CE Editor’s note: Please support Catholic Exchange by getting your copy of Behind Bella from our online store.]