The upcoming film, 90 Minutes in Heaven, based on the best-selling book of the same name, has just wrapped up production in Atlanta this week, putting it right on track for release later this year.
The movie, starring Hayden Christensen, Kate Bosworth, and written and directed by Michael Polish, tells the story of Baptist minister Don Piper's death, experience in Heaven, and return to normal life following months of physical rehab.
Piper's story begins on January 18, 1989, when he was traveling home from a conference in Texas and was involved in a fatal accident with a semi truck. Piper says that the roof of his Ford Escort crushed down him, his steering wheel impaled his chest, and the dashboard collapsed on both of his legs.
Paramedics at the scene pronounced him dead when they could find no signs of life, and a fellow pastor arrived on the scene to pray while waiting for the medical examiner to arrive. But that wasn't the end of Don Piper. In addition to coming back from death, Piper has full recollection of what he saw while he "crossed over" to Heaven.
It's that story that Piper has told in person to over 3,000 audiences over the years, and it's the story that has inspired over 6 million people to buy his book. "I'm an ordinary man with an extraordinary story," Piper said. "I want people to see hope in their challenges, to see that pain can come with purpose."
In the book, Piper describes meeting family members, including his great-grandmother, in Heaven. He also says that he joined a Heavenly choir as he walked through the Gates of Heaven.
In a 2006 review of the book by Tim Challies, he expresses his thoughts on Piper's description of Heaven. "Piper's description of heaven left me cold," he said. "I was dismayed to find that his heaven seems largely man-centered. In fact, if you were to ask your unbelieving friends and neighbors to describe heaven, they would probably create a place very much like this. Piper did not see Jesus, nor did he see God, though, to be fair, he saw only the "outskirts" and did not pass through the gates. Despite this, he was exceedingly joyful and feels that he experienced the very joys of paradise. For ninety minutes he walked through heaven, greeted by those he knew in this life, all of whom were (quite conveniently), the same age they were when he had last known them."
While only 15 of the 205 pages of the book are dedicated to Piper's time in Heaven, the new film is meant to focus on those 90 minutes he was dead. But it also includes the story that evolved during his rehabilitation and his family's growth based on his story.
The film also stars Grammy-award winning actors Michael W. Smith as family friend Cliff McArdie, and Dwight Yoakum as Piper's attorney, Lawyer Beaumont. Fred Dalton Thompson and Jason Kennedy help round out the star-studded cast.
The movie is also being created by Giving Films, a brand new film company that was formed to "address the need for more high-quality faith and family films-entertainment that also can open doors to wider audiences," according to the movie's press release.
The film company plans to give all profits from the movie to charity to help widows and orphans.
90 Minutes in Heaven is expected to release to theaters in Fall of this year, but no further information is yet available.