Filmmaker T.C. Christensen says this movie will be one of the highlights of summer for Utahns. "The Fighting Preacher," a film shot across the Beehive State, is set to screen July 24 in many theaters across the Wasatch Front and some across the rest of the state.
Christensen is known for successful films directed at members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints such as "17 Miracles," "Ephraim's Rescue," and most recently, "Love Kennedy." This latest installment in his film repertoire is said to be one of the most entertaining church history stories, yet one that hasn't been passed down through generations.
The story behind the movie
Centered on Willard Bean, the movie explores the life of an acclaimed boxer. In 1905, Bean claimed the title of middleweight champion of the world in 1905. Ten years later, he was called to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Palmyra, New York.
Even 85 years after the saints' departure, the area still wasn't friendly toward church members and didn't take well to the boxer's and his wife's arrival.
“Willard Bean was a good-hearted man, but when he first got to Palmyra, only to be welcomed with contempt, he responded with what he believed to be the only tools at his disposal — his fists,” Christensen says. “Willard bested all who insulted him, his family, or the church. In an attempt to foster better relations with the people of Palmyra, he put up a boxing ring and challenged all comers.”
Throughout the span of the movie, Bean learns his aggressive ways aren't winning him as many friends as his wife's gentler, kinder ways. Even though they had a rocky start back east, the Beans ended up staying nearly 25 years; They were only supposed to be there for five.
“What the Beans accomplished in the face of extreme conflict is awe-inspiring. Not only did it require a change of heart on the part of the people of Palmyra, the Beans — especially Willard — had to adapt their approach as well. When Willard finally sees the light, great things happen,” says Christensen.
When you can see it
The film stars Dave McConnel as Bean and Cassidy Hubert as Rebecca Bean. People looking forward to seeing the film can experience it in theaters on July 24 — Pioneer Day. While that specific date may seem like a happy coincidence, it's anything but.
“When we think of pioneers, we automatically imagine church members traveling westward across the plains. Although the Beans went the opposite direction, traveling back east to the roots of the church, their pioneering spirit is no less captivating.”
The movie premiers at the Jordan Commons Megaplex in Sandy at 7:45 p.m., July 17. The rest of the state can see it beginning July 24. To purchase tickets and find a theater showing the movie near you, visit "The Fighting Preacher's" Facebook page.