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A stirring and heartfelt drama about one man's journey on the road to redemption

A stirring and heartfelt drama about one man's journey on the road to redemption. THE APOSTLE represents a tour de force for Robert Duvall, who triumphs in the title role of a film he also wrote, produced and directed. As Euliss "Sonny" Dewey, a Pentecostal preacher who must start life over after committing a crime of passion, Duvall is joined on screen by an exciting and eclectic cast that includes two time Oscar­nominee Miranda Richardson, Academy Award­winner Billy Bob Thornton, musical legend June Carter Cash and, in a striking departure from her previous film roles, Farrah Fawcett. The film, which Duvall lovingly developed for well over a decade, world­premiered to great acclaim at the 1997 Toronto International Festival of Festivals. THE APOSTLE will he distributed in early l998 by October Films.

In a role that stands firmly beside his Oscar­winning turn in 'Tender Mercies". Duvall creates yet another indelible and quintessentially American character ­­ someone who strives to be larger­than­life but who is brought down to size by his own human frailty. A preacher since boyhood, Sonny has spent his life starting churches of his own or making "guest" appearances throughout the South. Equally popular with white, black and Hispanic worshippers, his fire­and­brimstone revivals, mixing song, dance, and top­of-the­lungs religion, are sold­out everywhere. In the orbit of evangelical ministers, Sonny may be a star. But, while he appears to be in command of the countless souls he preaches to, he is not always in command of his own.

Robert Duvall knew he wanted to make a film about a Pentecostal preacher after visiting a small Arkansas church more than 13 years ago. "So many actors try to get films made," says the award­winning actor, "but it's really difficult. 'The Apostle' script had a lot of supporters, like Horton Foote and Ulu Grosbar, but we couldn't raise the money for it. Even though there are twenty million Pentecostals in this country and two hundred million worldwide, the concept is outside the mainstream and not understood by the film industry, which has a history of patronizing the preaching world.'' Faced by indifference to a project about which he was so passionate, Duvall took a greater leap of faith than any portrayed within his script: he decided to "greenlight'' the project himself, adding executive producer and finances to his roles as screenwriter, director, and leading actor.

As fashioned by Duvall the screenwriter, the story of Sonny's redemption follows a longstanding tradition in Southern literature in which a charismatic and mysterious stranger comes to a small town and has a transforming effect on the community. In the process the stranger is himself transformed. In works like "The Reivers" and "Barn Burning"' (the story that became "The Long Hot Summer"). Faulkner used this very structure, as did Carson McCullers in "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and Flannery O'Connor in "Wise Blood." Interestingly, John Huston's adaptation of the O'Connor book is one of the few screen incarnations of an evangelist that Duvall approves of. "I think in 'Wise Blood,' Ned Beatty did a wonderful job as a street corner preacher in a cameo. That's the only time I think I've seen it done well. Usually, films tend to caricature preachers. They put everything in quotes and really look down on them by not portraying them accurately. The subject fascinated me because I'd never r


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