Richard Dutcher and Larry Miller are friends again.
Miller is back on board to help finance Dutcher's two new movies a sequel to "God's Army," which grossed more than $2.6 million, and "The Prophet," a Dutcher pet project that he has been trying to get going for more than a year. And Dutcher says it may star Val Kilmer and F. Murray Abraham.
In a Thursday press conference, LDS filmmaker Dutcher and Utah Jazz owner/auto dealer Miller announced an extensive moviemaking collaboration. With Miller's financial help, Dutcher will make "God's Army 2: States of Grace," a sequel to "God's Army." Although the second film they made together, "Brigham City," was judged a critical success, it grossed disappointing box office earnings of less than $1 million.
Dutcher said filming on "God's Army 2" will begin in January in Los Angeles and that Luis Robledo, who played the Hispanic missionary in the original film, will reprise his role, this time as the star. His character, whose past is checkered, will be unavoidably pulled into a gang incident.
"The Prophet" is the story of the life of Joseph Smith.
Both Dutcher and Miller declined to divulge the budget figures required for either "God's Army 2" or "The Prophet," which Dutcher will make immediately afterward. "It's not a big secret," said Dutcher, "but it's largely unnecessary information." (However, the budget for "The Prophet" is at least $12 million, according to previous figures given to the Deseret Morning News.)
Only two weeks ago, Miller announced a deal with other LDS filmmakers in which he is providing sole financial support, "The Work and the Glory," to be based on Gerald Lund's multivolume series of LDS historical novels.
Miller said at that press conference that he had became disenchanted with Dutcher and "The Prophet" since it was originally announced a year ago, but he did not officially pull out. When asked what had happened to "The Prophet," Miller gave a lengthy reply. He said he had been surprised when Dutcher announced an earlier timeline than he had planned during an earlier press conference on "Brigham City." He also said that Dutcher had never actually given him a proposal for "The Prophet."
Thursday, Miller apologized for what he had said about both the timeline and the proposal, saying he had checked his daytimer and his files and found that he was wrong. So Miller and Dutcher had a two-hour lunch to discuss their differences they "fought," said Dutcher but they ended up burying the hatchet.
"I was grossly unfair to Richard on both points and made him look bad. I did not intend to do that. I don't have any harsh feelings about him. I've committed a significant amount of money to this film more than I did to 'God's Army 2.' But I needed to clear the air today."
Dutcher was touched by Miller's apology. "It takes some real character for Larry to say he's made mistakes. I always used to say Larry's my hero. Last week I wasn't so sure he was my hero or not. But this week, with the way he has handled this, sitting down man to man to make it right he's my hero again."
Dutcher is very excited about "The Prophet," and called it "the Mount Everest of Mormon filmmaking." He has polished the finished screenplay and has most of the funding he needs. In the meantime, he is planning to do "the bulk of the filming" in the summer of 2004 and release it in 2005 the bicentennial of Joseph Smith's birth. "It's going to be my birthday present to him," said Dutcher.
Dutcher acknowledged that Columbia University historian Richard Bushman, who is preparing a book-length biography of Smith, is still his historical consultant and that he wants the film to be "historically accurate."
"I want to tell a powerful, amazing story in as close to two hours as I can. He was an exciting and charismatic man with an exciting and violent life, and I haven't seen that portrayed anywhere."Although the casting is dependent on their schedules, Dutcher said both Kilmer and Abraham have agreed to portray Joseph Smith and Gov. Thomas Ford of Illinois, respectively.