Actress Jennifer Garner made news recently during promotion for her movie “Miracles From Heaven,” about a nine-year-old girl who recovers from what seemed like an incurable disorder.
Garner talked openly about religion and faith during publicity interviews before the movie was released, but her comments gave some people pause. Were they heartfelt? Or was it all part of a larger publicity stunt for the movie?
Here’s a look at what Garner said, how it affected the movie’s performance and the role of faith and religion in show business.
Garner’s Comments on Faith
Actors and actresses give plenty of interviews in the days and weeks leading to a new movie release, and it was no different for Jennifer Garner before the release of “Miracles of Heaven.”
What got people thinking, however, was her willingness to chat openly about her faith and religion, something not seen often among Hollywood’s elite.
“This movie did bring faith back into the conversation of my life and did make me realize that my kids weren’t just going to get this via osmosis because my parents had given this to me, that I actually had to be intentional and to participate in it,” the actress told Reuters.
“I think I’d been lazy about it so I got off my duff and we had a conversation and found a church we loved where we’ve been totally embraced and really happy.”
She explained the movie helped her concentrate more on her faith, and that she hoped it would have a similar affect on those who saw it.
“I will be so thrilled if it lifts people’s hearts in that way, if it asks anyone to re-examine their own faith and their own beliefs, that would be the pie in the sky for me,” Garner told The Christian Post. “I can’t think of anything better.”
She added, “I think on a basic level even if you’re someone who goes into this just because the other movie that you want to see is full and this is what’s open at the time, you should walk out feeling inspired and you should walk out with a sense of hope. You should walk out reminded about how much you get from your family and community.”
Reaction to Her Comments
Garner’s comments leading into the movie didn’t cause a firestorm, but they did cause some more cynical readers to question whether she was being genuine. In most cases actors do a sell-job leading into a new movie, with hopes of boosting ticket sales, so why would this be any different?
Publicity stunt or not, Garner’s open conversations about faith seemed to hit the right chords. The movie did well at the box office, bringing in nearly $55 million to date in the U.S. and is in ninth place domestically so far in 2016.
Those are good numbers for a faith-based movie. But even without that “faith-based” distinction it was simply good movie business, especially considering its low-by-today’s-standards budget of $13 million.
Also, “Miracles From Heaven” certainly isn’t the only faith-based movie to have success in recent years. Others, including “Heaven Is For Real” and “God’s Not Dead,” have done very well at the box office even with relatively modest production budgets.
Faith’s Role in Hollywood
Faith and religion haven’t traditionally played a huge role in Hollywood, particularly among its top stars. When the topic does raise its head, it’s not always positive — look no further than recent concerns about Scientology and its role in the lives of actors including Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
That’s not to say there’s no place for faith and religion in mainstream Hollywood, however. Some stars including Tyler Perry — who has been very successful in both TV and movies — have no problems discussing God and religion.
Other actors have said they’re religious or faithful in their own lives, but that they don’t push it on people or talk about it much in public.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re suppressing their faiths. Religion can be a divisive issue — look no further than politics — so it could well be a business decision for most mainstream Hollywood stars to stay away from such topics to avoid alienating fans.
In the case of “Miracles From Heaven,” only Garner knows whether her comments were genuine or part of a stunt to get people to see the movie. There’s no denying it worked, however, both in building buzz for what turned out to be a successful movie and for endearing herself to fans that might share her faith.