The Story behind Amazing Grace

Veteran filmmaker Ken Wales, Executive Producer of the critically acclaimed and award-winning CBS Television series Christy, has recently completed what he considers one of his great movie roles ? as co-producer of Amazing Grace, the movie about William Wilberforce, the man who championed the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Wales agreed to talk about the movie during an interview at the 15th Annual Movieguide® Faith & Values Awards Gala, held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on Tuesday, February 20th.

He began by revealing how the film he was going to help make was originally going to be about John Newton, a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.”

“Well it really began as the John Newton story and then, as we talked to Walden about it, Phil [Philip Anschutz, a Denver businessman who heads up Walden Media] said, ‘You know, I really am such an admirer of William Wilberforce. Is there some way we can combine the two stories ?’

“So we began to look at this and, sure enough, I found that we could tell the Wilberforce story and also have John Newton influence him since he was thirty-four years older.

“I think this is a major achievement for this motion picture because Michael Apted has done such a fine job in directed it along with a good team. The viewer really feels like they are right there in the seventeen-hundreds in England through the excellent art direction.”

He went on to say, “I had a friend see it recently in Los Angeles and he said, ‘Ken, how in the world did you spend over a hundred-million doing it? It looks like over a hundred-thirty, a hundred-forty million movie! I said, ‘It is a twenty-eight-million dollar movie and we were even under budget by two-million. The average cost of a film now is seventy-eight-million, but if you exercise prudence and go at it with an attitude of excellence and authenticity, it’s amazing what you can do.

“When you see the film, you will feel you’re in the House of Commons as you witness Wilberforce fighting and struggling to see that the bill is passed that ends slavery. He fought for twenty years to see that indeed the slave trade was ended in the British Empire.”

[Journal Chretien for the rest]

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