GRAPEVINE, Texas — Pat Boone balked at playing Marilyn Monroe’s on-screen love interest. He sang his heart out in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “State Fair.” And he was a bobbysoxer heartthrob who out-polled Elvis Presley as a teen favorite in 1957, when each had chart-topping songs.
But it wasn’t until the 21st century that Mr. Boone, he of the white buck shoes and glass of milk at the ready, wept on cue, filming an emotional scene for “The Mulligan,” a film due in 2022 with a golfing motif and a message that God offers multiple “do-overs” through a saving relationship with Jesus.
The script is based on “The Mulligan: A Parable of Second Chances,” a 2007 novel by management guru Ken Blanchard and golfer Wally Armstrong, said Rick Eldridge, producer and CEO of independent film house ReelWorks Studios.
Mr. Eldridge said in an interview that while reading the Blanchard/Armstrong book, “I’m thinking, ‘Well, this has to be Pat Boone.’ And so I had one name on my list,” in contrast to the usual casting scenario in which a producer pursues five or six actors for a role.
Mr. Boone, 87, this week attended the National Religious Broadcasters convention in this Dallas suburb to receive an International Christian Visual Media group’s award for his decades of performing in and producing spiritual-themed films.
In “The Mulligan,” Mr. Boone — himself an avid golfer, swimmer and tennis player still active after two knee replacements — portrays Will Dunn, dubbed “The Old Pro,” who counsels Paul McAllister, a highly successful businessman who melts down during a charity tournament. The Dunn character guides the businessman to an understanding of how God’s grace can change a life.
For Mr. Boone, the role contained a challenge.
“I’ve done a lot of acting. And I’ve played a lot of roles where I was mainly playing myself or somebody like me,” he explained. But this movie included a scene in which the Dunn character describes the first do-over of his life.
“It’s a very sad happening in my [character’s] life. And I didn’t know if I could do it justice,” Mr. Boone said.
He said the scene was filmed as a “dolly shot,” in which the camera rolls across the stage to focus on the McAllister character.
“I forgot all about the camera. When I started telling the story, I was overtaken, I began to weep. I was not planning to. I didn’t know how to. I couldn’t have made myself cry [on cue]. And yet, I knew the scene should be that emotional. All I know is I was just overtaken by the Holy Spirit. I was fighting trying to keep control of myself so I could say what I’m trying to say,” Mr. Boone said.
A lifelong churchgoer who in the 1970s hosted Bible studies in his home for other entertainers, Mr. Boone added that while “The Mulligan” is framed by the game of golf, its message about second chances applies beyond the green.
“The [film’s] subtext is life, as we all live it,” he said. “We all need to do-overs at times in our lives. And then the game of life is God’s game. He can grant mulligans, do-overs, second chances. In this film, I get to tell this recalcitrant hot shot, that in the game of life, Jesus puts his name to our scorecard and erases our mistakes if we ask him to take [them] off. And we can turn in a perfect scorecard that He’s made possible even with all our errors, if we will accept the forgiveness, and the mulligans and the do-overs that He grants us.”
Mr. Boone’s “do-overs” include saving his marriage to Shirley Foley early in their 65-year romance when his admitted fondness for partying got him off track. The couple’s rekindled faith made the Boones one of the most prominent evangelical Christian couples in Hollywood. The Boones’ four daughters were at his wife’s bedside when she died in January 2019.
“We sang her into heaven,” Mr. Boone said, recalling the five family members singing the hymn “Blessed Assurance” at her bedside. “After the last verse, she was in her new home in heaven. If you told me that I was going to die next Wednesday at 3 p.m., I would say, ‘Great! Because at 3:01 I’ll be reunited with Shirley.’”