Remember the Controversy Over Carrie Underwood’s Big-Screen Acting Debut?
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Carrie Underwood hasn’t done that much acting, but what she’s done, she’s made it count.
The country superstar made her acting debut in an episode of How I Met Your Mother in 2010, and the following year she made her motion picture debut in Soul Surfer, a movie that lines up well with Underwood’s Christian faith. The faith-based elements of the movie wound up creating controversy before the film even premiered.
The film tells the story of Bethany Hamilton, the champion teen surfer who lost her arm to a shark attack in 2003 at the age of 13. The movie was adapted from Hamilton’s autobiography. Underwood played the role of Sarah Hill, Hamilton’s best friend and a youth counselor at her church. Her friendship and encouragement helped Hamilton return to surfing against all odds. Hamilton got back on the pro surfing circuit just months after losing her arm.
Directed by Sean McNamara and shot in Oahu, the movie stars Anna Sophia Robb as Hamilton, Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as her father and mother and Jack Nicholson’s daughter, Lorraine Nicholson, as one of Hamilton’s close friends. Craig T. Nelson and Kevin Sorbo also appear.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, there was much behind-the-scenes controversy over a scene in which Underwood’s character recites a passage from the Bible. An executive at Mandalay Pictures debated whether or not they should indicate that the verse derived from the Bible, or whether the character should just say the words without attribution in an attempt to appeal to both Christian and secular audiences. In another scene, he digitally removed the words “Holy Bible” from the cover. After the Hamilton family objected, both elements were restored for the final print of the film.
“Can you imagine if a character said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,’ but they acted like it was their own, like it didn’t come from President Kennedy?” Tom Hamilton told THR. “This would have been the same thing. So they relented on that point.”
Soul Surfer was screened for religious leaders around the country before opening in more than 2,000 theaters nationwide. While it received mixed reviews, it was a reasonable box office success, and remains a family favorite for many. Underwood has been very choosy about her acting roles; since Soul Surfer, her sole acting credit is her ratings-shattering turn as Maria in The Sound of Music Live!
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