Bart Millard, the subject of the upcoming movie about the singer of the most popular Christian song, talks with Aleteia.
In 2001, the Christian rock band MercyMe released the single, “I Can Only Imagine,” an inspired song that rose to the top of the charts. The tune has since been certified 2x platinum (over 2 million copies sold) and is the only Christian single to ever reach this milestone.
Now the story behind the most popular Christian song is being turned into a movie, I Can Only Imagine, set to release this Friday, March 16. The film follows the life of the lead singer/songwriter of MercyMe, Bart Millard.
The movie is a touching work that explores the themes of redemption, faith, and the triumph of the human spirit. J. Michael Finley, who plays Bart, gave an especially thrilling performance for his big screen debut. His voice, seasoned on Broadway and very similar to Bart Millard’s, sends shivers through the viewers in every scene he sings.
We had an opportunity to sit down with Bart and ask him a few questions about his story and the upcoming motion picture.
The movie spends some time depicting your upbringing and the difficulties you faced throughout your early life. I’m sure while you lived through it you never expected to tell this story on the sliver screen. What was it like for you to see it all come to life before your eyes?
It was surreal to say the least. You know, it’s not really something you can prepare for. I just thought it would never happen. I never even got my hopes up, thinking “They’re not going to make this movie. That’s crazy.” But then about two years ago when the Erwin brothers got involved it just started picking up speed. I still can’t believe we’re sitting here talking about it and I’m just happy how it ended up. I really think the redemption story is worth being told.
What did you think of J. Michael Finley in that role? This seems to be his big screen debut. Do you think that this brought something extra to it, seeing as how the movie is about your big break?
Yeah, I thought he was fantastic. They wanted someone who could actually sing the part and he was Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway when he got this part and we went up and saw him perform that. The two of us hit it off. We felt like brothers, we were so similar it was almost eerie. We got very close and it was super exciting.
When Dennis Quaid came into the picture I thought, “Man, he’s gonna kill it,” and I really think that Michael went toe-to-toe with him and did a great job.
Speaking of Dennis Quaid, what do you think your father would have thought of his performance?
I think he would have thought the whole thing was too much of a big deal, or that it’s not a story worth telling. He would have been flipping out that Dennis is portraying him. He probably woud have been the same way I was, thinking that this is crazy.
I think the performance [Quaid] gave was so good. I think my dad would have probably been a little bit embarrassed from the standpoint of, “Why would you be talking about me at all? I’m a nobody.” But I think he’d be proud of the performance for sure.