LYNCHBURG, Va. — Liberty University professor and alumnus Scotty Curlee was once ready to abandon his education, unable to pay the bills. His professor David Horton stepped in with more than encouraging words, handing Curlee a $1,000 check.
“I knew that I am one of several students that Dave gave a $1,000 check to, and that’s one aspect that really touched me studying under Dave,” said Curlee, a Liberty University (LU) theatrical arts professor. Curlee directed and co-wrote with colleague Cheryl Mckay the screenplay for the upcoming film “Extraordinary,” based on Horton’s life.
The school is calling Extraordinary unique for being the first university-created film with a national theatrical release, a one-night run Sept. 7 in select theaters.
Extraordinary follows the life of record-setting ultra-marathoner Horton and his marriage to Nancy, a union that suffered and endured Horton’s quest to run a 2,700-mile trail after open heart surgery and other health issues. Horton still teaches at Liberty as a professor of exercise science and kinesiology, and is still married to Nancy, whom Curlee describes as a key figure in the film.
Despite the film’s focus on Horton’s endurance to finish the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, the project is truly about enduring the race of marriage, said Curlee, himself celebrating 20 years of matrimony in December.
“Knowing Dave and Nancy, I know their marriage journey. I know that marriage is a commitment. It takes work,” Curlee said. “And their marriage has encouraged our marriage. Between having an inspirational professor and being encouraged on that marriage journey, I thought this might be the perfect story for us to tell.”
Horton completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 2005 in 66 days, 7 hours, and 16 minutes, averaging over 40 miles per day, according to his curriculum vita at liberty.edu. Even as he contemplated quitting, it was his wife who rallied him to complete the run, Curlee said. Nancy had been slow to embrace Horton’s dream of running the race, a mission he believed was God-inspired.
Women’s minister and actress Shari Rigby, known for her role in the film “October Baby,” portrays Horton’s wife. Rigby draws from her relationship with Jesus and her successful marriage to Matthew Wiedmann in portraying Nancy, she said. Marriage only works when both parties discover their individual identities in Christ, rather than defining themselves by their own goals and pursuits, Rigby said.
“Nancy finally realizes,” Rigby said, ‘My identity is in Christ, and He put me here and I need to serve Him well and that, therefore, I serve my family well.'” The film’s presentation of the marriage struggle can help others endure the institution, Rigby said.
“Once they come back together again and they encounter one another, they’re both changed. She looks at him and she knows … ‘I want to do this marriage with you. I want this to work,'” said Rigby. “And he looks at her and says … ‘I realize there’s nothing greater in this than you, and I want to do our marriage well.’ And that’s what’s significant about the two of them.”
Rigby, a former model who dedicated her life to Christ at age 25, leads the Hollywood women’s ministry, “The Women in My World.”
Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts Department produced the film alongside the Working Title Agency, which markets itself as a leader in faith-based film marketing and financing. Fathom Events is the film’s distributor.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. describes the film as an opportunity “to start a dialogue about honoring your family, persevering and finishing well.” A 15-minute panel discussion on marriage follows the film.
Ticket information is available at extraordinarymovie.com.
— by Diana Chandler | BP