Same Kind of Different As Me may be the first faith-based film with two Oscar winners and another two Oscar nominees.
And to producer Stephen Johnston, it wasn’t luck or fortune that brought the talent together.
“I don’t think anything just necessarily happened with this film,” Johnston told the Christian News Journal. “… I felt like God’s hand has been on this project since the beginning.”
Same Kind of Different As Me (PG-13) opens Oct. 20, telling the true story of a successful businessman whose crumbling marriage is saved when an angry, emotionally scarred homeless man enters his life. It is based on a New York Times bestseller by Ron Hall and stars Greg Kinnear as Hall; Renée Zellweger as his wife, Debbie; Djimon Hounsou as Denver, the homeless man; and Jon Voight as Hall’s father. Zellweger and Voight have won Academy Awards, while Kinnear and Hounsou have been nominees.
It is being released by Paramount and the Christian studio Pureflix.
“The heart of everything in this movie is the concept that we ought to love one another even though we may be different, even though we may come from different backgrounds,” Johnston said.
Johnston is the lead financial investor in the film, although his involvement had humble beginnings. He learned about the book in 2010 after his wife read it and recommended it to him, but he put it aside and didn’t pick it up until his pastor referenced it in a sermon.
“It really spoke to me in a powerful way,” said Johnston, who at the time was CEO of a technology company. After he sold the company in 2012 for $100 million, he began considering investing in a film. Eventually, he settled on Same Kind of Different As Me.
“I ended up getting to know Ron Hall, the author of the book, and committed to step in and help them get this story told,” Johnston said.
The film features several scriptural themes, including forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption and unconditional love. It also tackles racism.
Johnston expects it to appeal to mainstream and faith-based audiences – as well as to adults and teens.
“Teenagers who have seen the film really love the story. It’s not your typical action film that a teenager would like,” he said. “It’s a very dramatic film. However, a lot of students across the country have read the book as required reading. And for them to be able to see that story unfold on the big screen is just a really amazing moment.”
Johnston hopes faith-based moviegoers will support it opening weekend and send a message to Hollywood that “we care about this type of content and we’re going to support these types of movies.” He also wants audiences to be inspired by the relationship between Ron and Denver – two men from vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Just that one conversation that he had with Denver led to a life-long friendship,” Johnston said. “And I think there’s a lot for us to learn from that relationship that they had. … Go out and make a difference in your community. Do one small act of kindness for someone and see where it will lead you.”
— by Michael Foust
Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade. Visit his website, MichaelFoust.com