Oscar-winning Hollywood actor Jon Voight recently opened up about his role in the new faith-based film Woodlawn, revealing that it "celebrates the Christian faith and its influence on young people" at a time when discrimination against Christians is rampant both in the United States and across the world.
From director brothers Jon and Andy Erwin and executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, Woodlawn follows the true story of the Woodlawn High School football team members in Birmingham, Alabama, who surrendered their lives to Christ during desegregation in the 1970s, impacting not only the school, but the entire town.
Voight, who stars as legendary coach Paul William "Bear" Bryant in the film, recently told Town Hall that he was first drawn to the project because of the character he was given: "The thing that drew me to it initially, they came to me with the idea of me doing Bear Bryant," he said. "I'm a fan of football and I knew who Bear Bryant was. I have the greatest respect for him and affection for him. I was flattered that they thought I could do it."
While Woodlawn is set over 40 years ago, the film's themes of faith, love and racial reconciliation are particularly relevant today and also prompted Voight to participate in the movie.
"It's a faith-based story, it's a story about a Christian movement," Voight told the news outlet. "With the wanton attacks on Christians throughout the world, which are disturbing and disheartening, deeply appalling, it celebrates the Christian faith and its influence on young people. It was almost a breath of fresh air, something we needed I felt as I read it...."
He added, "The attacks on the Christian world across the globe have been very disheartening. We forget the positive influence of Christianity in the midst of all of this. We're losing something here in this country if we don't support our Christian brothers and sisters."
Woodlawn also stars Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings) and newcomer Caleb Castille, who plays NFL great Tony Nathan. "The View" co-host Sherri Shepherd also appears in the film, which is being released through Pure Flix, the same studio that worked on faith-based films God's Not Dead, Do You Believe and Faith of Our Fathers.
The film, which hits theaters Oct. 16, has already received rave reviews: "Woodlawn tells a deeply personal tale of race and the power of faith," writes one secular critic. "It may make people who think (rightfully) the separation of church and state is a bedrock American principle, especially when it comes to public schools, nervous. But it's impossible to argue over the message of love and tolerance in Woodlawn. And it's also impossible not to recognize the skill and power of the way the filmmakers tell their story."
Speaking to Town Hall, Voight reiterated that the film will both entertain audiences and offer hope for overcoming the racial crises facing America today.
"It's a great football story," Voight said. "It's a thrilling story really. I think people are very moved by this story and the fact that it's all true. It's effective in that way. You know it's the real thing. You take the ride and it's beautifully shot and beautifully acted and people cheer at the end of it."