Daniel Roebuck Delivers an Inspiring and Memorable Family Movie in Getting GraceSeeing the world through the eyes of a severally-ill child in the new film, Getting Grace, is a truly memorable family movie experience.
A labor of love from long-time film and stage actor, Daniel Roebuck, who is making his feature film directing debut about a spunky, funny, sarcastic, and empathetic young girl, who is losing her battle with cancer.
Knowing she is dying she heads to a funeral home to learn about death and dying, and ends up teaching Bill, (Daniel Roebuck), a disenfranchised funeral director, about life.
While trying to prepare her single mother, Venus, for life after only child passes away, Grace assembles a support team of with diverse backgrounds – the funeral director, his compassionate sister, a quirky author who says he can bend spoons, and the hospital’s chaplain – to help one another deal with the impending loss of Grace.
Simultaneously, Grace humorously hijacks the hospital’s “Coping with Life” class, offered for children dealing with their own fatal diseases, and moves it to the funeral home.
With humor, black humor, and great emotion coming from the stellar script and the suburb cast, Getting Grace, from Hanover House films, is about family, love, and understanding how important it is to live our lives to the fullest, and savor every moment with the one’s we love.
For three decades, Roebuck has built an impressive body of work, including roles in the fan favorite movies The Fugitive, Agent Cody Banks, and Halloween 2, as well as numerous TV series, including Lost and Matlock.In order to promote the movie, Roebuck and his young co-star went on a 15-city tour to visit local TV stations, churches and advance screenings. They raised $25,000, which was donated to charities in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where the movie was made. These charities included three community theaters where Roebuck previously worked, the Charter School for the Arts, as well as the area’s Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
While gearing up for the release of Getting Grace, Roebuck spoke in an exclusive interview about the nine-year journey for his movie, inspirations from his own family members, including his daughter, Grace, and the myriad of life lessons his movie has to offer.
To see the Getting Grace Trailer Click Here:
Daniel, why did you want to make this movie?
Daniel Roebuck: It may sound a bit ridiculous but some things are meant to be and I was meant to make Getting Grace. I had no inclination that I could direct it, but I had received Jeff Lewis’ script Bending Spoons to see if I was interested in acting in it. I replied that I wanted to direct it. The movie found me nine years ago.
That is pretty compelling.
DR: Jeff is a wonderful screenwriter, who is also a prison guard in Saginaw, Michigan, and the script went through many revisions from him and me. The movie you will see is ours. I wanted to overlay the allegory of God’s grace over the story of a sick girl, who goes into a funeral home to find out what happens when she dies.
You saw some reflections of your own family, too.
DR: Yes. The character of Grace was exactly like my daughter in personality – an inappropriate, silly, funny person – who was only 13 at the time I started this project. She has always been like this. From the time she could understand a joke, she could make a joke about anything, and the thought of this really grabbed me.
The emotional aspect of the movie about dealing with such overwhelming loss really struck me. I used a lot of tissues. I laughed and cried, a lot.DR: Thank you. The story is about the gift of a child who has quirks, and that makes us laugh and cry simultaneously. The line in the script where the mother says during parent-teacher conferences two teachers would talk about her daughter’s unique traits and some would see the positive and some would see the negative – that was my daughter, Grace. That happened to us. So the mother says, ‘Some people get Grace, and some never will.’
Please tell me more about this.
DR: Metaphorically, that is so profound; people can ignore it, don’t want it, or they want to follow the spoons, which are a symbol of faith. I never thought I would be a missionary to this message. It’s a message we have to communicate. We don’t need super heroes to solve our problems, we have everything we need – hope, faith, family and love – is all right here.
Was it difficult to act and direct the movie?
DR: A personality like mine wants to please everyone, for each of my roles of actor, director, and writer. To be all of those people rolled into one meant a lot less worry in the day even though the work-load was quadrupled.
How did you make all the decisions?
DR: The best way I know how – I have always followed my gut and my heart.Did your family predict this career path for you?
DR: Oh, no. I am just some guy from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and if my parents could have afforded it after I told them about my pursuits, they would have sent me to a psychiatrist. But, I did a lot of theater there, which I directed and starred in. I believe this is a gift; it was something I had to do.
You also directed and performed theater in L.A.
DR: Yes, at church plays at the St. Francis Stage Company in Burbank, California. Doing shows in L.A. is different from anywhere else because we get costumes from Universal Studios and props from Warner Bros. All of this was a great training ground for directing this movie.
Who is the audience for Getting Grace?
DR: Everybody. Every family. I have seen audience members ages 8 to 80. It’s a universal story, so it affects every faith – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mormon and everyone else. If we haven’t already been, all of us will be touched by cancer, and also personally touched by death. The audience for this movie is everyone who sees there is something greater than us out there.
That is pretty profound message.
DR: I agree. We have to recognize that every day we have here we have to live it fully. And you can find in any faith the proclamation that you must live life well to respect what gifts you have been given.I loved the performance of the young actress, Madelyn Dundon, who plays Grace. How did you find her?
DR: She had played in theater, but this is her first movie. I threw down the gauntlet and said I was going to find a child in the Lehigh Valley to play Grace, and my Hollywood friends thought I was a bit crazy.
So, what happened?
DR; I auditioned a lot of kids, and they had to promise they would shave their heads if they got the part. Many were good, but there was only one Grace who walked into the room, and it turns out the girl who got the part, Madelyn Dundon, was from my high school. To show even more kismet, I directed her father in a play when he was 13 years old. I did this with my best friend, Scott, who passed away six years ago from kidney failure. Crazy connections. I wish I could say how smart and intuitive I am, but I’d be lying. This event was meant to happen.
It must be difficult to get a faith-based movie to the screen.
DR: It is, but we are also taking every opportunity to both entertain and move people. Getting Grace is a faith-based film, but it’s not my job to tell anybody to believe. As an artist I want to entertain you and make you think.
Who did you make this movie for?
DR: I made this movie for you, and others like you, who get it. If anybody walks away from this with a peacefulness to it, that is wonderful. It is no mistake that the sun rises at the end of the movie; it’s a new day and a new beginning. It’s about my belief that everybody who comes into our life, comes closer to God’s great plan that we all come together to help each other. If I die tomorrow there will be no confusion about what I thought about our purpose – the movie is my tombstone.
What do you hope people will get from the movie?
DR: I honestly wish that it will move people, make them laugh, and help people. We can use cinema to be a healing tool. I surrounded myself with my children, and other people, who believed in my vision, to make a difference through my films.
Your daughter was a teen when this project started. What did she think of the finished product?
DR: My daughter, Grace, is 22, and she worked as hard as anybody else in the movie. My son, Buster, plays me in the flashback. Some people would gasp on how I did that, because not only does his face resemble mine, but he has the same body movements. My wife, Tammy, one of the film’s producers, was totally supportive, as were my parents and my sister.You dedicated the movie to your life-long friend, Scotty.
DR: Yes, and there is homage to him as well. When he was dying he asked his dad for fresh fruit, so they ran out and got him some cantaloupe and watermelon and shortly after that, he died. In the movie we used chili cheese dogs, the thing that would first repulse Bill and then finally he will do anything he can for his young friend; even wake the chili cheese dog makers in the middle of the night.
You spoke to children at pediatric cancer hospitals and their parents.
DR: I spoke to a lot of the pediatric cancer moms who told me, ‘if you’re not laughing some of the time, you will go insane.’ So they appreciated the humor in the movie that they often need to get through the most difficult aspects of their lives.
I loved the cuddling scenes with Bill, Grace and Grace’s mom, Venus. They reminded me of my own childhood.
DR: It was what we did with our own children, and growing up without a father, that’s all Grace wants. It brings back my memories of Sunday morning in the family bed with my kids who would come and clown around; all the stuff that regular families do.
What is the major message?
DR: Ultimately, the importance of looking at, and appreciating, how we take care of each other.
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