Director/writer George Ratliff (“Joshua,” “Hell House”) below shares a scene from his latest, “Salvation Boulevard,” a religious comedy starring Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris and Marisa Tomei. The film opens at New York’s IFC Center on July 15 and will hit their VOD platform July 27.
“Salvation Boulevard” is a comedy about Carl (Greg Kinnear), an ex-Deadhead turned born-again Evangelical, who witnesses his larger-than-life pastor (Pierce Brosnan) commit an unspeakable crime. Carl finds himself on the run from a congregation with an unshakable faith that he is lying about what he has seen.
“Salvation Boulevard” takes place in the world of the American mega-church. This particular church is headed by a zealous Pastor Dan Day who endeavors to create a bubble of Christian culture so his congregants will never need to brush up against the secular world, (this concept might sound far-fetched, but it is practiced by most all mega churches). Pastor Dan has gone so far as to plan and get partial financing to build an actual city with his new church at the center.
Pastor Dan finds himself, quite back accident, in the middle of a scandal that will surely bring him and his church crashing down. While Dan finds his way to the belief that he is but a pawn in a larger spiritual battle, his faithful congregation each come up with different ways to cope with the possible collapse of their world.
The characters within this world are ripe for comedy (and for drama and for every genre of film), but filmmakers and studios rarely explore it because it is such an explosive topic. I personally have found it nearly impossible to have a conversation about belief or theology without it becoming an argument or yelling match. It was important to me to make a film that was neither a body slam to Christianity nor some faith-based thesis, but rather to make a raucous comedy set in the Christian world that both sides could laugh at. It’s been my experience that laughing at something is a good first step to being able to talk about it.
The scene takes place when Carl’s churchy wife (Jennifer Connelly) arrives to the site of a car accident that involved her family minivan. Carl is not there, but instead she finds Honey (Marisa Tomei) an ex-Deadhead security guard.
I chose this scene because it’s an excellent example of great actors using a personal situation to the benefit of the character and scene they are playing. We shot this scene at the end of a very long day in which we had filmed several complicated driving scenes, a car crash involving stunts, and on top of that, we had the delay of a failed camera which we had to have replaced. As a result, Jennifer Connelly was stuck in holding for 4 hours before we could film her scene. To further exacerbate her annoyance, Jennifer spent those 4 hours in a stress yoga position, so when she came onto set (as the sun was going down) she looked like she could torch entire cities with the fire coming out of her eyes. When Jennifer walked onto set (and the crew literally ran away from her) I knew that I had an opportunity to capture something amazing — especially because I had Marisa Tomei playing against her.
Because I only had time for a few takes at the most before we lost the sun, and because I like for the actors to improv whenever the scene allows, we shot this scene with two cameras. A two camera shoot limits the angles you can capture, and lighting becomes very tricky, but it’s absolutely the best for performance.