AT THE MOVIES
Ralph Winter: God’s Billion Dollar Man
By Michelle Wilson and Scott Ross
The 700 Club
Scott Ross [reporting]: Ralph Winter has produced some of the movie industry’s blockbuster hits which have grossed a billion dollars! The highly anticipated release of X-Men 3 is sure to bring in more.
But behind this Hollywood producer is a man who has a deep faith in God that keeps him grounded.
And you might be surprised to learn that Winter’s first ambition was not making movies.
Ralph Winter: I was going to be a history major, maybe become a pastor.
Winter: Worked in youth ministry, did all those church musicals and dramas, played Aslan in Narnia. Then I got a job at a department store. I was making videos for training employees. Won some awards, and then had an opportunity to move to Paramount and moved over in post production because I knew video and learned film.
Ross: What was your first success?
Winter: I was involved as an executive on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was very successful. We made that movie for $13 million, and it made $90 million in the box office. And that’s 25 years ago.
Ross [reporting]: Ralph has helped to produce some other box office hits like Fantastic Four and the remake of Planet of the Apes.
Ross: Define what you do? You handle millions of dollars, many hundreds of people, decisions have to be beyond comprehension to most people. How do you do this?
Winter: I think one of the things is doing what I say I’m going to do. I think you stand out when you do that in any business.
Ross: Living according to your word?
Winter: Yeah, so I say, “We’re going to do this, and we’re going to do it for this price.” Or “We’re going to do this, and we will get to the theater on time.”
And we don’t miss dates, and we don’t spend money that we say we’re not going to spend. We don’t try to line our pockets with it. We try to put all of it up on a screen and make something that is commercial and dramatic and has integrity.
Ross: Will I find those values, those principles in the X-Men movies?
Winter: I’m part of the development process of those stories, and I think you will find some of those values in there in terms of tolerance and how we treat each other and who the hero is and what he vaules, what he fights for.
Ross: In the midst of all of this hoopla, Hollywood, fame, fortune, all this stuff that people want to climb the mountain for, you’ve got it. It’s been handed to you on a platter. Yet you seem to have another set of priorities, another agenda that you’d make decisions that are based on something far deeper.
Winter: It doesn’t do me any good to have that and not have my family.
Ross: How long have you been married?
Winter: Now 31 years. 32 next month.
Ross: In this business that’s an Oscar.
Winter: I don’t know many people that’s been married that long in this business.
Ross: The most recent Christian film is The Visitation. What’s that?
Winter: Frank Peretti is a wonderful storyteller, and he’s not afraid to touch things that are a little dark. [It’s about] a pastor that’s lost his way in a small town. There’s a person that comes to town that seems like they’re a messiah. Strange things, wonders, miracles, healings seem to happen in town, and it draws him back to confront what’s really important in his life and where is his faith and what does he believe in as he confronts, literally, a battle of good and evil.
Ross: So there has to be a collision of values at various times when you may be asked to compromise who you are.
Winter: All the time.
Ross: For expediency sake, money, whatever.
Winter: Sure, sure.
Ross: When you say no to something that’s being presented to you, how do people respond to you?
Winter: Well, I think I get respect because I’ve worked on movies, delivered, done a good job and produced excellent stuff. So I gained some currency in being able to do that. There’s some disconnects that happen but I don’t feel persecuted. I don’t feel left out because I’m a Christian. I think also there’s I’ve been fortunate to help define what success is. That it’s not about money. There’s going to be somebody come along, and I can smell it already. Somebody that’s going to be younger, cheaper, faster, shorter, cuter and all those kinds of things... it’s only for a time that I get to be in this position, work on these movies, and keep my oar in the water trying to row in a particular direction.
Ross: Another line I read that you said: “We’ve lost the ability to create mystery and wonder.”
Winter: Well, how come we, as Christians, don’t tell stories that we’re so fascinated by? “It’s got to have a happy ending; it can’t be dark. It’s got to be happy. And I’m not sure what the subtext is. It’s got to be obvious.” I don’t think we know our audience. Well, Jesus’ stories resonates with everyone whether you’re a Christian or not. We have to learn about telling original and interesting stories.
Ross: What is your vision for what you want to be doing in the next 10 years?
Winter: I think we have to come up with an example or model or a paradigm of the kinds of movies that we, as Christians, will be proud of that will begin to infect the rest of the culture. I want to help figure out what that looks like. End of the Spear is one model. There’s a bunch of other models out there. I think there might be some newer models, and I want to investigate those and figure out what those look like. How we get those made to get the culture thinking in a new way about who Jesus is.
Ross: So you’re going to be here as long as God wants you here, right?
Winter: You know what? What makes the journey sort of fun and exciting is to see what’s next. I mean, literally, my deal is up in 90 days here. I don’t know what’s next. Part of that frightens my wife, but on the other hand it’s you know –
Winter: I’m not worried... Not at all. And it could all go away and that’d be okay too. That’d be all right.
Go behind the scenes of Scott's feature with Ralph Winter. Watch the uncut interview!
Ralph Winter: A Christian in Hollywood, Part 1
Ralph Winter: A Christian in Hollywood, Part 2
Contact Scott Ross.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.