- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2000

A jet bound for London is 30,000-plus feet in the air and something very weird is happening.

An elderly man seated next to his wife has vanished. So have all the children on the plane. Panic sets in as passengers demand to know where their loved ones have gone.

Down on the ground, it's the same story. Driverless cars and trucks swerve off the highway, causing multiple collisions.

Chaos sets in and martial law is put into effect. An emerging world government blames radiation from nuclear weapons for the mass disappearances, but relatives of some of the vanished are beginning to deduce that "the Rapture" has just taken place, heralding in the seven-year reign of evil known as "the Tribulation."

It is all in the book, and now it is a movie.

The wildly popular apocalyptic novel "Left Behind" debuted on film last week with the video release of "Left Behind: The Movie." The film won't be seen in theaters until February, as part of a marketing ploy that producers hope will generate interest in seeing the movie on the big screen.

Starring teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron ("Growing Pains") as journalist Buck Williams and his wife, Chelsea Noble, as Hattie Durham, "Left Behind: The Movie" condenses the novel into a 100 minute film that also features Clarence Gilyard ("Walker, Texas Ranger") as a minister who realizes he never fully believed the message he preached.

Some viewers will recognize Christian luminaries T.D. Jakes and Rebecca St. James in the film. Bishop Jakes of the Potter's House in Dallas is seen in a pre-Rapture video produced for those left behind, and Miss St. James plays Mr. Williams' assistant. Christian singers Bryan Duncan, Bob Carlisle and Clay Crosse perform three of the songs from the movie's soundtrack.

Produced by Peter and Paul Lalonde of Cloud Ten Pictures, which has done other films in the Bible-prophecy genre ("Apocalypse," "Tribulation," "Revelation" and the soon-to-be-released "Judgment"), "Left Behind" was made with a $17.4 million budget, making it the duo's most expensive film to date.

Peter Lalonde claims the movie takes few liberties with the 1995 book by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. "Book readers will be very pleased with how close we've been able to stick to the story line."

"Left Behind" is the first novel in a series by Mr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins that has consistently topped bestseller lists, rivaling even the blockbuster "Harry Potter" novels. The eighth book in the Tyndale House series, "The Mark," is scheduled for release Tuesday.

The series also includes "Tribulation Force," "Nicolae," "Soul Harvest," "Apollyon," "Assassins" and "The Indwelling." It builds the story of the start of the Tribulation period around the lives of Buck Williams, an airline pilot, his daughter and a minister, all of whom have been "left behind."

Although the film definitely has a Christian message, Mr. Cameron, who is a Christian, says he doesn't like calling it a Christian film. "Left Behind," he says, was made with quality and money, and the "Christian film" label often suggests otherwise.

Mr. Cameron's wife first expressed interest in a movie version of "Left Behind" while she was reading the novel, not realizing that one was in the works.

"This has got to be a movie, and I have to play Hattie," she said to her husband.

A few days later, Mr. Cameron was handed a script for the film with an offer to play the lead role. His wife was cast as Hattie.

• Distributed by Scripps Howard.

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