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From behind the scenes to center stage, Mormons are a formidable force in Hollywood.
Church members have some solid credibility in Hollywood, with classics like Napoleon Dynamite and more recent successes such as The Twilight Saga, Ender’s Game, The Maze Runner, and Austenland all based on novels written by LDS authors. Here are 11 famous movies you might not realize have LDS connections.
1. Star Wars (1977)
Some spiritual aspects of Star Wars were influenced by LDS film producer Gary Kurtz. A Los Angeles native, film producer Kurtz was born on July 27, 1940. His collaboration with George Lucas and Lucasfilm began in 1973 with the film American Graffiti, which was a huge box office hit. He then went on to influence many of the spiritual aspects of Star Wars and its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, as the producer. He also produced “The Dark Crystal” and “Return to Oz.”
2. Captain Phillips (2013)
Church member Mike Perry spent 45 years on the seas, becoming a Merchant Marine in 1995 after retiring from the Navy as a lieutenant commander. He was a crew member on the merchant ship Maersk Alabama when it was attacked off the coast of Somalia in 2009.
The harrowing story was portrayed on the big screen in the movie Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks. Actor David Warshofsky plays Perry in the film.
Perry risked his life by subduing one of the pirates and helping disarm him. That pirate was eventually used as a bargaining chip by the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, who was captured along with another crewmember in the first minutes of the attack.
Perry told the press, “I didn’t pattern myself after Chuck Norris or Jackie Chan,” referring to his actions on the ship. “The only thing that got me ready for this was the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
3. Schindler’s List (1993)
Church member Gerald Molen’s role as head producer of Schindler’s List earned him an Academy Award. Starting his career as the transportation coordinator of Republic Studios in 1957, Molen slowly worked his way up the ranks. By 1985 he was the unit production manager for The Color Purple, working with Steven Spielberg. His first role as producer came with the 1987 movie Batteries Not Included, and a year later he acted as co-producer in Academy Award winning Rain Man, in which he also made a cameo as Raymond Babbit’s guardian, Dr. Bruner.
Molen’s most recent release is a documentary about fellow Mormon Timothy Ballard. When Molen learned of Ballard’s incredible efforts to rescue children from sex traffickers, he knew he had to capture the story for the big screen.
“We want to create awareness of this problem. I’m excited to help in the little way that I can,” Molen says.
With hidden cameras rolling on every rescue mission, Molen’s film crew captured powerful footage of the operations that not only makes for a compelling documentary but provides irrefutable evidence that leads to the conviction of child traffickers.
“The footage we shoot becomes an evidence package to help prosecute criminals,” says co-producer and director Darrin Fletcher.
“There’s no doubt when the judge sees that evidence. It seals the deal.”
“We’ve felt a hand on our shoulder guiding us the entire time,” says Chet Thomas, co-producer and director. “There’s a reason for this beyond a movie or a television series.”
Watch the official trailer below or visit theabolitionistsmovie.com for more information.