C.E. Chambers’ telephone interview with actor Ken Bevel (originally posted October 14, 2011). Bevel played a fireman along with well-known actor, Kirk Cameron, in “Fireproof” (2008), and a deputy policeman in “Courageous” (2011). (See the gritty trailer of “Courageous” at the end of this article.)
On September 30, 211, a new full-length feature film was released by TriStar Pictures that was produced by the independent and visionary Sherwood Pictures. “Courageous” had already received $2 million in pre-ticket sales and earned $9,112,839 million at the box office that weekend even though it had a paltry budget (by Hollywood standards) of $1 million. It debuted as number four in the U.S. compared to all other films that were showing and ranked in first place compared to three other new films.
Excitement had been building since November 2009 when the movie making team of Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, had announced they were involved in the development of a fourth film. “Courageous” tells the story of “four policemen with a calling to serve and protect” their communities who realize their greatest challenge is to successfully raise their children.
Ken Bevel is a former U.S. Marine and senior assistant pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church who stars as a deputy policeman in “Courageous.” (Kevin Downes stars, as does former running back Tony Stallings, Ben Davies, and Alex Kendrick, the director and co-writer of “Courageous.”) He explained his thespian career this way: “I’ve come a long way since playing a tree in pre-school.”
In 2008, Bevel played opposite well-known actor Kirk Cameron in the popular full-length feature film, “Fireproof”, another movie produced by Sherwood Pictures. Bevel was asked to compare Sherwood Pictures with Hollywood’s movie making industry. “I think we have two different purposes. They do it to make money and entertain people. Our focus is to help change lives.”
Sherwood Pictures is sometimes derided by Hollywood insiders as “just a bunch of amateurs making movies.” However, even though “Fireproof” had a budget of only $500,000, it was the highest grossing independent film of 2008. What is the secret to its success when the “studio” consists largely of volunteer cast and crew who utilize private homes and other locations around Albany, Georgia, for camera shoots?
“Since prayer is the foundation of the ministry-at-large and at Sherwood Pictures, we spend a great amount of time in prayer before we even enter into production,” Ken responded. “We know that we are always one prayer away from making a huge mistake.”
“Courageous,” like “Fireproof,” doesn’t shy away from unpopular subjects but effectively tackles seemingly insurmountable issues with a skillful combination of great drama, riveting action scenes, and even humor. Both movies offer hope to hurting people.
Ken Bevel’s marriage underwent a profound change three years ago as “Fireproof” was being filmed. He played Lt. Michael Simmons, a fireman whose friend, Captain Caleb Holt, was consumed with frustration because of his disastrous relationship with his wife. When she began divorce proceedings, Caleb’s father compelled him to try the forty-day “Love Dare” which, after many false starts, resurrected his love for her and saved their marriage.
Advice contained in “The Love Dare” can honestly be described as revolutionary common sense based on Christian teachings. Bevel, a Christian at the time, shared that his “mindset changed” when he realized he wasn’t living up to admonitions in the Bible regarding the way men should treat their wives.
As Bevel shared, “Ephesians 5:25 encourages a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church. Jesus laid down his life for us. Was I doing that? No. How could I be making a movie if my own marriage didn’t reflect the message we were trying to put across?”
He went on to share, “Christ always made time for people and explained to them why he was doing things. We can get caught up in day-to-day activities. Am I putting aside things that I want to do to bless my wife as Christ has blessed me? ” Bevel made a short reference to this teaching applying to the “physical” part of marriage as well as to other areas.
Ken Bevel is a graduate of the University of Memphis with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering Technology, and a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School with a Master of Business Administration degree in Logistics Management. He spent twenty years in the U.S. Marines Corps and served overseas in places like Japan and Kuwait, and traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Captain in April 2011. He began serving almost immediately as a senior assistant pastor at the multi-ethnic, three-thousand-member Sherwood Baptist Church.
Bevel has been married to Luana Bevel for fifteen years, and they have two children: four-year old daughter Kyra and two-year-old son Kaleb. Ken and Luana, like many other Americans, have activated blocking controls on their television to filter out programs they consider unsuitable for their children.
Bevel was raised in Jacksonville, Florida, by a Christian mother and a father who stayed home on Sundays to watch football. Ken deeply loved his father and his “dream was to be like him.” However, when he was approximately seven-years-old, his father became caught up in drugs and alcohol and his parents divorced.
Bevel says the premise of his new film, “Courageous,” parallels his life – boys who are raised without fathers who end up committing acts of crime – and he experimented with drugs when he grew older. He graduated from high school when he was seventeen-years-old and joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He liked the structured environment but continued “clubbing and drinking” and it affected his work performance.
His first sergeant gave him a warning around 1992 but Bevel didn’t change his ways and he was eventually charged with a court-martial. After being told the devastating news, Ken went back to his room, dropped to his knees and prayed for God to help him.
“I hadn’t prayed for a while and I hadn’t attended church for a long time. I didn’t know how to change.” He gave his life to the Lord and promised, “If you can help me, I will serve you.”
Two weeks later, Ken drove to a Walmart store where he saw three men standing in the parking lot. They were a Christian ministry team who approached him and asked, “Do you know the Lord?” Ken answered “No,” and they asked if he would like prayer. When Ken said “Yes,” they prayed with him on the spot.
Approximately two weeks after this experience, a woman employed by the U.S. Marine Corps as a “monitor” (someone who helps transfer soldiers to other bases) arrived in Camp Lejeune in South Carolina where Bevel was stationed. She presented him with very surprising news: The Marine Corps was willing to drop the court-martial case against him.
“Where do you want to go?” she asked.
“As far away as possible,” he answered. He was transferred to Japan for one year. His life began to radically change as he began attending church regularly and met “godly” men. Also, his work performance greatly improved.
In 2003, Ken was stationed in Okinawa when he took a trip “back home” to Florida to see his father who “looked really beaten down.” Their relationship was reconciled when Ken told him he loved him, and his father prayed for Jesus Christ to enter his life. He passed away five years ago.
Bevel is a popular speaker at U.S. military bases and church congregations and is sometimes given permission by movie theater management to appear after showings of films produced by Sherwood Pictures. Standing in front of the screen, he thanks the people who have attended and asks for the audience’s input. Surprisingly, most people stay and are very open to listening to a presentation of the gospel of Christ. Ken says people “want to leave changed.” Sometimes moviegoers seek out Sherwood Baptist Church. Recently, twenty-five people who had seen “Courageous” on a Friday (October 7) attended the following Sunday service.
Bevel, an African-American, was asked if he had experienced racism while living in the South. “Most definitely,” he responded, and then clarified: “I don’t see it in the church.” Sometimes restaurant servers have approached his table only after waiting on diners who had arrived after him.
What would Bevel say to President Obama, or any U.S. President, if he had the chance? “I would encourage my Commander-in-Chief to follow the Lord with all of his heart and soul and with all of his strength, and to love his neighbor as himself.”
NOTE: Against all statistical odds, one million people turned out to watch “Courageous” during its opening weekend (Sept. 30 – Oct. 2). Although it appeared on far fewer screens than other films, it received a post-screen average of $7,752 per screen which was almost double that of other movies. More moviegoers turned out to watch showings of “Courageous” than any other film that played that weekend, including “Dream House,” “Moneyball,” “Contagion,” “Killer Elite,” “Dolphin Tale,” “The Lion King 3D,” “Abduction,” “50/50,” and “What’s Your Number.”
FILM REVIEW EXCERPT FROM THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Courageous reveals the duo’s growing expertise as filmmakers with its skillful blending of moving drama, subtle comedy and several impressive action sequences, including a well-staged foot chase and a harrowing shootout between the cops and bad guys.” (Read full review here)
RELATED: A video interview with Ken Bevel and Alex Kendrick regarding how they choose a storyline, etc. (link here).
RELATED: A video taken during opening weekend of “Courageous” with clips from the film including short interviews with Stephen Kendrick ( the producer and co-writer), Alex Kendrick (the director, co-writer, and actor), and actors (link here).
YOUTUBE VIDEO: The opening scene To “Courageous”: