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'Elmer Gantryish' Film Gets Greenlight for 2017
Contact: Brad Shapiro, 1-507-400-CAST
HOLLYWOOD, Calif., March 14, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ -- "Love is the Morning and the Evening Star," Richard Rossi declared to sold-out, celebrity-filled crowds in his 1998 stage performances as con-man preacher Elmer Gantry. The former faith-healer turned actor's portrayal of the religious opportunist resulted in the writer's estate handing him the Oscar from the 1960 Burt Lancaster version and Variety and Hollywood Reporter announcing offers for him to play the role on the big screen - offers Rossi turned down to the consternation of critics awaiting the film.
"When I prayed about it, it didn't feel right," Rossi said. "I needed time to process my evangelical experience and what I wanted to say about it."
Eighteen years later, his passion project is resurrected. He will star in 'Canaan Land,' his original contemporary story of an 'Elmer Gantryish' evangelist, Bernstein-Shapiro PR announced Monday.
Rossi wrote the screenplay and will direct. It is based on his experiences in the world of evangelism and is not a remake of the 1927 novel or 1960 film.
"I'm excited to create a Gantrylike character for the 21st century," Rossi said. "The film is an expose of modern evangelists and the search for authentic faith."
"Looking back on my years as a healing evangelist, I never did anything fraudulent to fake healings," Rossi said. "I prayed wanting God to heal people, and refused to report healings without medical verification. I was honest when people weren't healed and up front about the suffering we go through.
However, my time in that world allowed me to see tricks some big names do. They fake miracles, such as a gold dust trick they claim is angel feathers and gold flakes from Heaven. This hoax helped turn a church in California into the mecca for the charismatic movement.
When you watch 'Canaan Land,' even though it's fiction, you'll see how some churches fool people. It's about a consummate charismatic con man played by me, meeting Sister Sara, a female evangelist. Sara's a true believer, and an agent of the Gantryish character's redemption," Rossi said.
Sister Sara hasn't been cast yet. Over 1,000 actresses have tried for the female lead and casting associates have it narrowed down to a few stellar candidates.
A website with clips of Rossi's stage performance and additional perks for fans has been set up to raise pre-production funds at www.gofundme.com/CanaanLand  
The film's official Facebook page is www.facebook.com/CanaanLandMovie