Christian Living


Behind the Scenes of The Stoning of Soraya M.

Producer Stephen McEveety just knew he had to be a part of bringing the incredible true story of Soraya M. to the screen. A former producer with Mel Gibson's ICON Productions, McEveety has plenty of experience making films that grip the soul. Soraya's touching story just seemed like a perfect fit with his production company, MPower.

Filmed in an undisclosed part of the Middle East, The Stoning of Soraya M. recounts the life and brutal death of a courageous young mother who is wrongfully accused by her scheming husband.

McEveety recently talked with CBN.com about the making of this moving film.

You’ve been quoted as saying, ”I hope you will explore your own soul when you watch this film.” As the producer, how has it affected you?

I’m constantly exploring my soul, because it needs exploring. I think it made me wonder, and always makes me wonder, "Have I been abusive to people at times?" So I have searched my soul, found myself guilty. I think we’re all guilty of being a bit abusive to somebody at sometime, not intentionally necessarily. Most of the people in this movie I don’t think intended to be abusive. They’re a lot of weak human beings. I have searched my soul. But again, I’m constantly searching it, trying to improve.

Of the many universal lessons found in this film that don’t even pertain to Iran or Muslims, what are the ones you wanted to share with audiences?

That’s a great question because for me, I didn’t make this movie to make a statement about stoning or about Iran. The other filmmakers certainly did. For me, it’s a universal story. It’s a story about abuse and about the victim. It’s no so much am I trying to teach a lesson or give some kind of moral edict. I’m just hoping to make people aware of the victim and of the abuser, both in the world and in their own life. And I think it’s something that we have to explore because so many victims running around this world that can’t unload to anybody. It ’s a great resource to watch this film. There’s abusers here that don’t even realize they’re abusive ... and when they see this movie, it’s like holding up a mirror and they see themselves.

Why cast Jim Caviezel in the role of the French journalist?

He kind of came to me by accident. He’s a good friend of mine and my kids go to the same school as his. So I see him a lot. It wasn’t that I didn’t want him, but it wasn’t something I wanted to ask him to do because it’s dangerous … going off someplace in the Middle East is a bit scary. I didn’t want to alert his family or anything like that.

We were getting such great reactions. We hired two different movie stars to play that role and in each case they backed out a few days later, after their families looked at the script. They lived in Europe and they just didn’t feel like it was a very safe thing for them to do. So we were three weeks out from shooting, and I ran into Jim. He asked me what I was doing, and I complained about the fact that another one of our actors backed out. He said, "Well, let me read it." So he read it, and said, "I love this. I’ll do this. This is great. This story has to be told."

I said, "Jim, are you sure you want to put your neck out on this one?" And he goes, "Yeah, sure! This is a very important movie."

The stoning scene is understandably graphic. Word is that it was cut down so that it wasn't too much. Is that correct?

Yes, but that happens in every cut of everything. You take it so far. It’s too long, so you shorten it. No, it was essentially tougher than it is now. It’s trying to find that perfect spot without making too weak or too strong.

Stoning is a terrible thing. If you don’t play it properly, you’re really doing a disservice to all of those people who have been stoned. And I think you’re doing a disservice to the audience.

The author Caviezel portrays in the film died in March 2008. What he involved with the project?

He was going to meet with Jim on the set. Jim and I were flying off to the Middle East, and he was going to meet us there while we were shooting. We were going to arrive on the same day, and the day before we got on the plane we got word that he died. So that was kind of scary because we didn’t get any word on how he died, we just got word that he died. But it turned out to be natural causes. So unfortunately, he didn’t actually get to be there while we were shooting.

But he had read the script?

Oh, yeah. Like I said he was flying out to meet us, to watch the shooting. So he was all-aboard and excited.

The film was Runner-up for the Audience Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Did you expect that kind of response?

I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that someone beat us actually. But when it turned out to be Slumdog Millionaire, I didn’t know what that was at the time. So I was a little kind of upset. But as time went on, it turned out to be the best picture of the year. I’m not as bummed out as I was when they beat us.

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