At a time when Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood elites face growing accusations of sexual impropriety, Sean Hannity has emerged as a film producer eager to see more family-friendly films that don’t shy from upholding Judeo-Christian values.
In fact, for Mr. Hannity, the timing couldn’t be better.
“I think the old paradigm of Hollywood is crumbling right in front of our eyes,” Mr. Hannity said during a phone interview with The Washington Times. “We’re on the cutting edge of getting ahead of this because the demand has been there, and [producers] have had no desire to fulfill it.”
That is, except for mostly independent filmmakers like Mr. Hannity, who agreed to become an executive producer and fund most of the $3 million budget for “Let There Be Light,” a faith-based drama opening in theaters Thursday that stars Kevin Sorbo, known for “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.”
“He’s the best executive producer anybody could ever ask for,” Mr. Sorbo said of Mr. Hannity. “He said, ‘Here’s the money. Go make the movie and show me when you’re done.
In the film, which Mr. Sorbo also directed, he plays Dr. Sol Harkens, a famous book-writing atheist who, while living for the crowd’s roars of approval while skewering Christians in packed debates, also struggles with loneliness, the death of his young son and the leery attitudes of his two remaining sons, who are being raised by his Christian ex-wife, Katy, who is portrayed by Mr. Sorbo’s own wife, Sam Sorbo.
The couple’s two sons also feature in “Let There Be Light.”
After Miss Sorbo first came up with the idea for the film, she approached veteran screenwriter Dan Gordon (“The Hurricane,” “Wyatt Earp”), who agreed to co-write the script with her. A random contact from Mr. Hannity led to his immediately bankrolling the film.
“Sean Hannity, kind of out of the blue, called my husband and said, ‘I want to do a faith-based movie, and I want to work with you,’” Miss Sorbo recalled.
Not long after, Mr. Hannity, who juggles two full-time jobs in radio and TV, found himself in a pitch meeting in New York with the Sorbos and Mr. Gordon. Twenty minutes later, he cut them a check.
“It’s better than I ever dreamed it could be in terms of the quality, the acting and the cinematic value,” Mr. Hannity said. “I think with all that’s happening out in Hollywood, there might be an opportunity here to make more of these independent films that people will go see, and that’s why I wanted to lend my name to it.”
‘An unmet need’
The scandals surrounding Mr. Weinstein and other top players in Hollywood come as no surprise to the Sorbos, who have lived and worked in Los Angeles for decades.
“The casting couch has been alive and well since Hollywood started,” Mr. Sorbo explained. “A lot of would-be actors come out here, and people fall into this power position, and they do things that make people uncomfortable because they can. Harvey Weinstein is just the tip of the iceberg.”
(On Wednesday Mr. Sorbo told podcast host Adam Carolla that he was sexually harassed by fashion designer Gianni Versace in the early 1980s during his modeling career.)
Miss Sorbo, a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, author and homeschooler to her three children, shares her husband’s concerns about Hollywood.
“It’s because they can, because they’re not tethered to morality,” she said of serial abusers like Mr. Weinstein. “He only says that he knew it was wrong. No! He didn’t care that it was seen as wrong. For him it was right because he lacked the moral judgement or the self-control to stand for virtue.
“And the other people who are coming out now and saying, ‘Well, I knew about it, but I didn’t want to say anything’? I’ve got nothing for you, because if you don’t adhere to virtue and you’re not willing to stand up for good values, then we are lost as a society.”
Miss Sorbo said it’s not just Mr. Weinstein who’s to blame: The sin of looking the other way has been as endemic in Hollywood as the sexual abuse itself. She even cites the “standing ovation” that director Roman Polanski received in absentia when he won best director for the 2002 Holocaust drama “The Pianist.” (Polanski, who fled the U.S. in 1978 after being convicted of the rape and sodomy of a minor, has never returned to the U.S. as authorities have vowed to jail him.)
Dr. Sol Harkens, Mr. Sorbo’s character in “Let There Be Light,” embodies this cavalier, nihilistic worldview that the Sorbos say is frequently on display in Hollywood. Mr. Sorbo said Harkens is not based on any one person in general, but rather is an amalgam of people including atheist icons Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
“I have friends that are atheists. I’ve seen atheists and agnostics talking on TV, and I see the anger, the hatred,” Mr. Sorbo said. “It stems from something else I think other than just anger against something they don’t believe in. There’s a lot of unhappiness” in their characters, he said.
Mr. Sorbo based his character on “charismatic” public figures like Mr. Dawkins and Hitchens, the latter of whom died in 2011. At the beginning of the film, Harkens’ career is going strong after he breaks the rules during a debate with a Christian author and soundly trounces his opponent, much to the crowd’s delight.
But even as Harkens’ book sales and speaking engagements soar, his personal life — much like the mantra he repeats on stage — is devoid of any real meaning, a point that is not missed by the self-deprecating star whose inner circle is comprised of a garishly animated publisher, a razor-sharp personal assistant and an indifferent Russian model.
All sharks, like Harkens, who are just out to get theirs.
“You see more of his lifestyle, which is he abandoned his family, he’s drinking, he’s doing drugs, he’s hanging out with young models — it’s kind of ripped out of the headlines, to be honest,” Mr. Hannity said of the Harkens character who, following a party promoting his book “Aborting God,” hits the road drunkenly and wrecks his luxury car, nearly killing himself.
Harkens’ accident results in a clarifying near-death experience that challenges his beliefs to the core.
“You’re never going to be able to figure out the ending of this movie,” Mr. Hannity said. “I’ve shown it to a lot of people so far. I’d say 98 percent of people who watch it cry.”
Mr. Hannity believes most films fall short of having any real impact on the public with their gratuitous violence and sex. While the Fox News host admits to a fondness for “Braveheart” and the Jason Bourne franchise, he believes Hollywood can aspire to more.
“I think [the studios’] formula … is stale and does nothing to make you think,” Mr. Hannity said. “It does nothing to inspire. It does nothing to move you emotionally.”
While the budget of “Let There Be Light” may seem paltry compared to a summer blockbuster, Mr. Hannity believes the relatively meager expenditure didn’t “short-change the final product in any way.”
“We were able to do so much more with less,” he said. “That’s the best part.”
“Let There Be Light” will be in theaters Thursday.