Dennis Quaid stars in a new faith-based movie that is based on the life of MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard and the famous Christian song he created. "I Can Only Imagine" follows Millard's darkest days as an abused child, and Quaid plays his father, the monster in his life.
Quaid talked to Kathie Lee Ford and Hoda Kotb about the film when he dropped by The Today Show this week. He said "I Can Only Imagine" was not a typical Hollywood redemption story but it hit him with such intensity that he knew he had to be a part of it. The actor described his role as Arthur Millard to the hosts.
"He was an abusive father. I'm talking about physically, emotionally and verbally, who made Bart feel bad about himself. Abusers are abused themselves. Still, that's no excuse," the actor explained.
Quaid, who is a Christian raised in a Baptist church, told the Dallas Observer that he had never heard of Millard's popular Christian song until he did the movie. He did not listen to the CD until he finished reading the whole script, and that made much more impact on him.
"It was such a powerful story, being as true as it was, and a very difficult role," Quaid said.
The actor also shared he does not mind if his movies were labeled "faith-based." "I Can Only Imagine" was not the first spiritual film he did, but like "Soul Surfer" (2011), he loved the redemptive quality of the stories in this genre.
The Millard father and son relationship showed the worst in a man who was truly a bad guy, according to his son. Bart Millard also shared to Dallas Observer that it was hard to watch the scenes that featured his father, even if it really was just Quaid pretending to be him. The younger Millard confessed he could not go back to the set until the scenes they did were filled with hugging and pleasantries. Even so, he credited his father for his decision to get into music, which made him one of the top Christian artists in the industry for more than a decade.
The movie opens in theaters across America on Friday, March 16. J. Michael Finley plays the singer.