Fellow fans of Garth Brooks’ deeply personal ballads, our prayers have been finally answered.
When Lifetime debuts its original film Unanswered Prayers, based on music legend Garth Brooks’ 1990 No. 1 smash, on Nov. 29, it will mark the first time a Brooks hit has ever been adapted for film.
Why so long, when Brooks’ themes of love and loss and Regular Joe life seem like such a natural fit for the movies?
“In ’92, ’93 when the song was out, we got a lot of requests to do it, but everybody kind of wanted to have it as the basis and then go on from it,” Brooks, who co-executive produces, explains. “What Lifetime brought to me and [senior vice president of original movies] Ms. Tanya Lopez said was, “Look, I don’t want to change a word of the song. I want to make a movie that IS the song put into pictures and that got my attention.”
In large part because the genial artist realizes that the film — which tells the story of Ben Beck (former Without A Trace star Eric Close), a happily married former small-town football star whose life is upended when his high-school flame Ava (Damages‘ Mädchen Amick) returns to town and causes him to question the path his life has taken — will naturally be equated with Brooks’ own life. One that has been scrutinized to the nth degree throughout his career.
“I’m an executive producer,” Brooks says, “but the truth is, this is my work. The truth is, the character of Ben is going to be viewed as me. It just is. That’s how it is as an artist when you take your songs and they get done. So what I was telling the screenwriter was, ‘Please, make him real, but at the same time, you gotta protect me. I’m him. And that’s how it’s going to be viewed. So please let him be a guy that reflects a better person than I am [laughs], personally, and has good sense and stuff.’
Here’s a guy who’s at a point in his life where he wonders, ‘What if,'” Close explains of the character Brooks says he embodies to a T. “What if I had been with this other girl that I loved and we went off and traveled the world? What if my football career hadn’t been cut short? What would my life have been like? He has to go down kind of a dark road before he realizes he’s got it pretty good.”
“And how it is brought out in this film is that it happens in a very small town, so what happens to this couple happens to this whole town,” Brooks adds, “There’s a point in this movie where you don’t know how far things actually go. And the reason you don’t know is to divide the family that is watching I, because I think that’s the greatest things– things that inspire debate. It’s not a cop out — it’s done very cool. But half the family will believe that it went further than it did and half won’t and it’s all based on what your own personal belief in human nature is. How they came to that point is something I’ve never seen before. And I’m very proud of that.”
“I think if you released this 20 years from now, we’ll all still be struggling with the same themes and the choices we’ve made in our lives,” Brooks muses. “You know, happiness isn’t something we go after. It’s something you find within yourself. And that’s what this movie tries to point out. You cannot depend — you know I have all girls, so when the subjects of marriage, or relationships comes up, the first thing I say is you can’t depend on someone else to make you happy. It doesn’t work that way. Once you are happy with yourself, only then can you be happy with someone else.
“‘Dad you don’t know nothing!'” Brooks laughs. “They roll their eyes, but here’s the whole thing — I can’t remember who it was that said it, but the greatest lessons in life cannot be taught. You have to learn them yourself. So you do the best as a parent, you do the best as a songwriter or an artist to say, ‘Hey, you can learn from what other people have gone through, but the truth is we all have to learn these things ourselves.'”