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Actor Corbin Bernsen Makes a Faith-Filled Film

By Hannah Goodwyn Producer - You may recognize Corbin Bernsen from his days on L.A. Law or his current stint on television as the veteran cop father on USA Network's show, Psych. But, he's hoping you'll get to know him through his latest project, Rust. It's a faith-filled film about a minister who walks away from God, a journey which takes him back to this hometown where an incredible tragedy has rocked the small population and landed his childhood friend in a mental hosptial.

Recently, spoke with the actor/writer/director/producer about Rust and the rediscovery of his faith in God.

Rust: A Personal Project On your Facebook page, one of your recent statuses said Rust, your new movie releases on DVD next month, means more to you "than fame and money, and it’s personal".

Corbin Bernsen: Right. Well, most everything I do on a creative level is beyond the fame and money. I sort of work as an actor… and take care of my family and mouths to feed and all of that. I don’t really care about fame, but our business means money sometimes and financial success, which I can pass on to my family.

Rust really started with the passing of my dad, and me really looking back inward to my self about where I stand with all things on a faith/religious/spiritual level. And it’s really put me on this interesting road and very educational, I might add, road back to understanding the role of faith in God and Christ in my life. And maybe how I’ve not abandoned it, but I like to say, I’ve sort of come with the term “I haven’t flexed the muscle in a while,” since I was younger, for whatever reasons. I don’t want to say it’s this or that. But as many people do, you just stop working out. And when my father passed, I was put on this journey. I like to think something greater is at play here. But I was put on this journey to rediscover my faith. And so the success of Rust is more about a success on my personal journey, I suppose, in that way, and supportive in my time and effort put in, rewarded by my personal growth. What about your dad put you back on this path? Was he a faithful man?

Bernsen: He was starting to get faith into his life. Toward the end of his life, he was seeking a goodness. That’s all I can say. But it wasn’t so much that. It was literally standing with a bag of ashes one day in this little velvet bag and thinking, “Where is he? What is he?” All of that stuff. “Is this him, this bag of gray ash and bone fragments that I see holding in my hand? And is he in Heaven? Is he in God’s hands? Is there a God to be in the hands of?” Literally. “I have this strong feeling and memory of my father that just transcends this bag of ashes, so where is that? Where is the place of that?”

We were watching the show this morning, my youngest son. It was on the History Channel, and it was fire and brimstones, “You go to Hell if you don’t do this and go to Heaven if you do this.” And I was saying, “Oh, that’s a bit frightening the way it’s put there.” But nonetheless, it’s a question we all sit and ponder.

Let’s say [my 12-year-old son] grew up in a house that didn’t have faith or spirituality… I still say kids have a notion that there is something. They have a notion of God and, to some degree, Christ. But that’s more of something that has to be taught than understood. That’s a part of what they feel. You know the story, but the story of some larger thing than that which they see in front of them is at play. Let’s put it like that. Because it’s unless you become educated about what it is, then it simply is a feeling. And you look at him, and I’m thinking many, many of us as kids are like that. Most kids have an innate feeling of the sense of God and spirit. But either we forget about it over time, or we’re scared away from it.

I was a little worried of him watching this show this morning, because I was thinking like, “Boy that could scare him right out of even thinking about any of this stuff…” And I saw the fear in his eyes, and I thought, “You can’t be living by that. Once you make your choices up about that way.” That can drive people away. That can be like, “Hey, you know what? I’m not even going to think about it, and I just won’t deal with it.” For whatever reason it is, many people have this innate feeling and, over the course of their life, I think, are driven away. If you don’t exercise it, they go away. You forget about it. So you get wound up in our consumerism and commercialism and ego and all that stuff and keeping up with the Joneses. And all that replaces the simplicity of God in Christ.

Corbin Bernsen's Push to Make Rust Is addressing that kind of one of the main reasons you did this movie?

Bernsen: Actually, it’s the beginning of the road of the journey. It’s a setting off point for me.

In the case of the movie Rust, I created a [James Moore]. I’m 55, and I wanted to explore the whole notion of midlife crisis, being at a certain age and realizing you’ve done a certain amount, there’s so much more you want to do. And what have you given up to do the things you have accomplished or tried to accomplish? And where have you succeeded, and where have you failed? All that stuff goes into midlife crisis. I don’t think it’s simply a guy sees a young girl and says, “I’m ditching the wife and buying a red Ferrari.” I don’t think it’s that simple. I think it’s more about time left, time spent, how much more you’ve gotten out of what you have or perceive that you have from your family, and you only have X amount of time left. Just the typical man midlife crisis. I didn’t want to do that story either, because that’s boring to me.

Then I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to take a guy who’s a pastor, somebody’s who’s been in the service of God in Christ basically his entire adult life, and wakes up in his 50s one morning—it never happens over one morning, but romantically it sounds good—and there’s no more conversation. It’s over. You talk to him, but He’s not talking back to you, and he’s gone silent, like a relationship. The guy says, “Look,” to his wife he says, “I’ve put my whole life into this family, and I get nothing back. And you’re not there for me, and we don’t kiss anymore, and we don’t communicate.” Then he goes off. Well, I wanted to create that story here with a guy who’s faced with this or a similar situation, but instead of a wife it’s that which he’s married his life to the service of God in Christ. And he needs to get on the road back to it. So now we’re into Bernsen’s story of somebody who’s lost it, in a different way and is rediscovering his faith.

Bernsen on Walking Away from God That leads right into one of the lines in the film when James is told that stepping away from God is “one heck of a messy divorce”.

Bernsen: Yeah, the guy says, “Stepping away from God is one heck of a messy divorce.” You can walk away from a wife and three kids, and I suppose you might find somebody new and create a new family and new experiences and at least have the surface appearance of “it’s all worked out OK.”

When you walk away from God and you walk away from Christ, you’re basically uprooting the very foundations of being. So I don’t think there is an easy way to do that. Even for the guy who becomes an atheist out of it, it’s messy. It ain’t pretty. If the new marriage is atheism, if that’s the new marriage, that’s not going to work. What is that? That’s nothing. The new marriage is nothing, to believe in nothing. So I’d imagine for somebody who falls out of love with God, has dedicated their life to God in the service of God in Christ, and to walk away from that must be the most frightening... I can’t imagine anything more frightening.

Restoring Faith There’s another conversation when it’s said that “what’s done is done and can’t be undone.” The characters are talking about the finality of our actions. But in the film, the seemingly final scenarios can be changed.

Bernsen: It can be undone. That’s Dwayne’s (the sheriff) point of view, “what’s done is done and can’t be undone”. I don’t think Dwayne’s a bad guy. In the film, he gets a little smile of a nod at the end, like, “You were right, James,” but he’s not resolved.

In my movies, you won’t have everybody resolved. We never will be resolved completely. But, obviously, what’s done can be undone, and I think that becomes the challenge to James. Yeah, what’s done is done and can’t be undone, that is the first obstacle thrown in front of him that James must overcome to the restoration of his faith.

I’ve been reading a book, Lee Strobel, one of his books, lately, A Case for Faith. I’m becoming a student of all this now on my road. And it’s interesting, because it sort of suggests the two biggest obstacles to coming of faith are a belief in the resurrection, “a crazy notion, scientifically impossible”. The other one is what kind of good God would allow suffering and pain. In my sort of miniscule little mind in trying to sort through all this stuff, it sort of jumped at me loud and clear that it is perhaps through suffering and pain that we become closer to God.

I used to say, “Well, why is it all guys in prison? Why is it people have been through tragedy? Why is it this person lost their children? Of course they go to God, because that’s all they got.” But what if God needed to create that tragedy and that pain for them simply to come to God? And in that way, I think when Dwayne says, “What’s done can’t be undone”—why did this family burn to death? That’s a terrible tragedy. What kind of loving God would do that?” But isn’t that perhaps what was needed to bring James back to his faith?

With that family there was a pain and a suffering, but look what came back and what James has become. What influence, because he’s restored his faith, could he have on the world? We don’t know what the plan is. We just have to have faith in the plan.

Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as the Entertainment and Family producer for For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.

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