When you are looking for a filmmaker in a crowded room, someone you have never met before, the search is made easy when the guy you are looking for is Robert Orlando. He’s the guy who looks like a filmmaker. Not the Woody Allen type, more like the Francis Ford Coppola meets Hugh Jackman larger than life kind of director.
I met Robert Orlando at a coffee shop in Union Station in Washington DC. Before I sat down, I learned more about early Christian mysticism, Gnostic doctrine, and St. Paul’s crucial role in making Christianity a worldwide religion than I had, well, basically my entire life. You need to buckle up tight for a ride when you sit down for a cup of coffee with Robert Orlando. His words and intellect come at you like they were shot out of a cannon.
But the rapid-fire delivery soon made sense, there is a lot going on in Mr. Orlando’s life and when you’re trying to get Hollywood to pay attention to a film with religious themes you better bring a battering ram to be heard.
I met Mr. Orlando to discuss his most recent film The Divine Plan. The movie explores the fascinating friendship between President Reagan and Pope John Paul II and how, together, they put in motion the events that led to the end of the cold war.
From the movie’s website: “A president and a pope; an unlikely pair who combine deep faith with political acumen and high-octane star power. A plot that involves two assassination attempts, KGB scheming, CIA intrigue and the final act to topple the Soviet Empire.”
Interview with Robert Orlando
Stephen Ryan: I see you did a film about General Patton called Silence Patton: First Victim of the Cold War then the movie Apostle Paul – a Polite Bribe. Now you have released The Divine Plan. The Gen. Patton film was made for a mainstream audience, the movie about Apostle Paul is Christian themed, and now your latest project seems to have feet in both the secular world and the faith-based world. You cover a lot of ground. Tell me a little bit about the creative process of selecting a project. To me it seems daunting to have a blank canvas with seemingly an infinite number of topics to choose from I would think, takes over your life. What takes over? What drives you?
Robert Orlando: Creative ideas, or narratives, like a chemical reaction are made up of a few ingredients and some intangibles. General curiosity, passion, discovery, most-of-all vision. With that vision comes a conviction: I want to tell this story. Sometimes to entertain, other times to teach, maybe to dream. With the Apostle Paul, I was astonished at how few in the Faith world really knew about the historical Apostle. Paul was someone I have studied and followed from a very young age and, yes, he was the spearhead to the earliest Christian Mission. After the Fall of Jerusalem and with the collection of his writings, Paul became the pillar of the early Church.
With Patton, I found his predictions at the end of WW2 (and what would become the Cold War) all came true. A prophetic figure, he (along with Winston Churchill) was ignored, and as a result, came the horrors of Communism in Eastern Europe! I thought this was an incredible cautionary tale and one that needed telling with the reemergence of Putin and modern Russia. The Divine Plan was such an intriguing story because it was started by Carl Bernstein with his article on the Holy Alliance and later explored by people like Paul Kengor, but so few in the mainstream knew the story.
I liked the challenge of unearthing something so influential to our modern generation. But I needed to first get down to the facts that would support the main theme. Did Ronald Reagan and John Paul II after their near assassinations connect with the CIA and Polish Solidarity on a mission to bring down Soviet Communism, Reagan’s Evil Empire? Answer: YES.
Then the question was how much of this plan was based on their faith in Divine Guidance and how much on their political or acting ability or the geopolitical timing. You’ll have to see the film to learn what I found. It was an amazing path of discovery, which also led to a book on the subject. Book out on June 10th on Amazon and other booksellers. And the film will be coming to a theater near you in the Fall.
Stephen Ryan: I love the title of “The Divine Plan”. It’s certainly ambitious. I see that at the end of your trailer President Reagan’s Biographer and well-known historian, H.W. Brands says the “Story is ongoing” Can you speak a little bit about how you came up with the title and what is meant by “The story is ongoing”
Robert Orlando: Brands was voicing a common theme of the American project for freedom and human dignity. These aspirations are not automatic. Most of the non-Western world has not experienced this level of freedom or been part of the experiment that has been around for only 250 years. The emergence of dictators or Evil Empires has always been with us. Freedom is the exception and therefore an ongoing fight.
Freedom of religion and speech is key to fighting the temptation of Utopian promise. Marxists knew this propaganda game very well. They could exploit the genuine suffering from the abuses of imperialism, the Depression, and the overall human condition in order to gain power. Today we are seeing this in softer ways on college campuses and with anti-Judeo-Christian sentiment and with anti-Americanism.
Reagan and John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher (and others) had true historical perspective and stood for those themes that have been with Western Civilization since Greco-Roman and biblical times. Freedom is not the natural, even normal state of society, but something that is established through a social contract. A social contract and its root values must be reinforced and when needed defended against from the forces of statism like the Soviet Union. The Cold War may be a thing of the past, but the risk is ongoing and heightened by today’s technology and media. The war is Cyber.
Stephen Ryan: Along with the movie, you and Professor Paul Kengor have a book coming out with the same title. The Divine Plan. …At Mystic Post we are interested in The Blessed Mother. I had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Kengor when his book “A Pope and a President” came out. In our talk, Professor Kengor spoke of President Reagan’s interest in Catholic supernatural events including the events at Fatima. This revelation was a big surprise to me.. While making your film and writing the book what surprised you most about President Reagan and did you learn things about Pope John Paul II that our readers may find surprising? For example, you mentioned that Pope John Paul II may have been directly involved in looking at war maps with USA intelligence.
Robert Orlando: Paul Kengor can speak more to this subject, but John Paul II had a strong connection with Mary from when he first lost his mother. His Father said, “this [Mary] is your mother now.’ The Pope placed his would-be assassin’s bullets in the statue at Fatima, which as you know is the famous location for the apparition that offered the prophecies of the coming Revolution in 1917 and world Communism. John Paul II would later ask, after his near-death experience, for the final secret of Fatima, locked in a Vatican vault, to be opened and found that it predicted a Bishop in White who would be assassinated. He claimed two hands were involved in the missed assassination, one that pulled the trigger and the other that guided the bullet, Mary. I can go on, but JPII’s whole life was dedicated to the Blessed Mother. As for Ronald Reagan, Paul Kengor wrote that Mary both intrigued him and appealed to him. Few people are aware that President Reagan actually went to Fatima and gave a speech there. It has been said by others but Reagan’s choice to have Ave Maria sung at his funeral speaks to his fondness for the Blessed Mother, perhaps even a deep devotion that may forever remain a mystery.
Stephen Ryan: What did you learn about the Cold war that you think needs to be better known. Do the history books get it right?
Robert Orlando: A lesson that first came to me during the making of Patton. The Cold War was largely the result of not finishing World War II. The agreements made with Stalin at Yalta were truly a Faustian Pact that caused endless horrors for Eastern Europe and especially Poland, the cauldron from which Pope John Paul II emerged. A Cold War that started just after WW2 and ended (at least temporarily) with the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
The lesson goes back to the ancient Greeks. If you are in a war, you cannot leave the fight until you have vanquished your enemy or made them an ally. Think of even the most recent times, Iraq I leads to Iraq II. Even Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq leads to the Syrian conflict. Either stay out of wars, but once you are in one, you must complete the mission, or you invite future retaliation.
The Divine Plan will be released November 7th, 2019, for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
On June 10, 2019, the book The Divine Plan, based on the movie, will be released. The book will be available on Amazon and book stores near you.
image: United States President Ronald Reagan shaking hands with Pope John Paul II at Miami airport via Reagan Presidential Library / Wikimedia Commons.