Heaven Is for Real is based on the No. 1 New York Times best-selling book of the same name and tells the true story of a boy in a small town who has a near-death experience and claims to have seen things in heaven that he couldn’t have known about.
The filmmakers knew that the role of Colton Burpo was a critical one for the film. Director Randall Wallace explains, “Finding Colton was a huge challenge because the movie could not succeed if Colton seemed artificial. If you believed that he was just reciting lines, you would never believe any of what he was saying.”
It wasn’t until the very end of a nationwide search that they found the right match. “We saw a lot of tapes and finally got down to eight boys. Seven boys were very similar to one another but one boy was different,” remembers producer Joe Roth. That boy was five-year-old Connor Corum.
Corum’s mother, Shannon, says that though the opportunity was exciting for her son, the family was cautious about having him take on the role. “Initially, it was a mixed bag of emotions. There was certainly some concern about whether we were thrusting our son into the limelight and also about whether he would be able to stay grounded and enjoy his childhood,” she recalls. “On the other hand, it was pure excitement and joy and something really positive for our family. My grandfather, who turned 95 last October, was thrilled. He’s a very spiritual man and I really feel like this has given him something wonderful to focus on in his life.”
Wallace had no trouble working with Corum. “I’m the father of sons and I’m a little boy myself still, at heart, so I wanted Connor to come onto the set and feel that he was part of a great, big family.” He continues, “He always came to set prepared … . Sometimes I would say ‘action’ and we’d film the scene and the magic would happen right there. Other times Connor would be full of energy, distracted and bouncing off the walls and we’d have to wait and let him calm down. …When he forgot that it was a movie, he just began to be that character in that space, which is what we want of any actor, and then he was riveting.”
Costar Greg Kinnear says, “He’s kind of the greatest version of an actor, in the sense that everything he does is on instinct, it’s effortless, it’s just kind of there without any artificiality to it.”
Heaven is For Real is available starting July 22 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© Sony Pictures/Columbia Tri-Star Pictures Release
© 2013 CTMG Credit Allen Fraser