A follow-up to the Dutcher discussion: actors who maintain LDS standards

Given all the discussion on LDS film director Richard Dutcher, I thought this story was interesting. To sum up: the story discusses LDS actors and how they maintain the Church’s standards in a sometimes decadent industry. Jon Heder is quoted as saying he told a director once that the scene had to be changed or he would not perform it.

One important point: people in all kinds of jobs face questions about honesty and Gospel principles on a daily basis. This is not a problem just for actors and directors. The temple recommend interview asks if you are honest, and many bishops tell me this is the one that is often hardest for people to say “yes” to. So, I am not by any stretch implying that only actors and directors face challenges. But it is interesting to look at how prominent people deal with these issues.

6 thoughts on “A follow-up to the Dutcher discussion: actors who maintain LDS standards

  1. Katherine Heigl is a star on Grey’s Anatomy and she’s pretty vocal about how she no longer maintains LDS standards (not that I watch Grey’s Anatomy).

  2. I wonder why they didn’t talk to any film students, to ask how they want to improve the environment in Hollywood for actors with standards. Or, talk with LDS filmmakers and writers out in the industry: surely Orson Scott Card, Richard Rich, et al could take the time to write an email. It’s not like the actors are working in a vacuum, or even surrounded wholly by Gentiles. I mean, Heder’s most known film was produced, written AND directed by other Mormons.

    Not to mention talking about righteous projects made by non-Mormons: M. Night Shyamalan’s characters rarely swear, never seem to have sex, and only commit acts of violence when in desperate situations (or because they’re bad guys) and it’s all non-graphic. The whole of the film/television industry is not, in fact, like the great and spacious building. Even productions made in (gasp!) New York can be uplifting.

    (I also chuckled at the “inactive out of college” line. YSA have the worst activity/retention rates, at least in all the wards I’ve been in. In my experience, the majority of Mormon college grads from all colleges and majors go inactive after they move to a new town. Period.)

  3. queno: For what it’s worth, Heigl’s vocality about LDS standards doesn’t appear at all on her IMDb quotes/bio page. Actually, it never mentions she’s LDS. Her Wikipedia entry does manage to say she was raised LDS, though there’s no citation. Her own website biography mentions her “strict Mormon” upbringing on page 4 (in conjunction with a one-time permission to go on a date at the age of 15,) and on 16 pages of fluff (including lines such as “As a long-time animal lover Katie served on a panel of celebrity judges to help find Old Navy a new canine mascot,”) the only thing she appears to be passionate or vocal about is organ donation. I know her mother had cancer, that she once dated Joey Lawrence, and that she grew up in New Canaan, CT, but it’s only your post (and not IMDb, Wikipedia, or the actor’s own official biography) that tells me she’s ever said anything about LDS standards or her own current activity level.

  4. I like Jon Heder, but I must say I was very disapointed in his character in “School for Scoundrels”. His character gets sloshed drunk, curses and loses his virginity at the end of the film. I am not judging the man, I jsut wonder what the movie would have been like if he did not stand up for his values?

  5. Daniel Brown:

    When the church produces a movie, and if they use only members as actors, then some members have to play the bad guys, such as the mob or the apostates in early church history.

    I don’t see that as any different than a Hollywood-produced movie where some people have to play the bad guys.

    I think the correct questions should be: “Does the movie portray sin as wrong?” and “Does the movie promote unrighteousness?”

    I don’t require perfect heroes as the protagonists in film. But I think the question should be whether the movie is just cutting someone some slack for being human, or whether the movie is saying certain sinful behavior is okay.

    For instance, I had mixed emotions about the movie “Pay it Forward”. Kevin Spacey’s character had an overnight visit, including having sex, with Helen Hunt’s character. I thought that was unnecessary to the story. All the other sinful behavior, such as drugs and violence, was portrayed as bad. But the fornication was not.

    I would hope that LDS actors would not look just at the role they are considering, but also the film as a whole. If I were an actor, I would have a problem portraying any role, even a good guy, in a film that obviously promoted unrighteousness.

    I would have no problem seeing LDS actors portray thieves, murderers, drug addicts, drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes, as long as those things were not only necessary for the story, but were portrayed as “bad things” and not promoted.

    Most all great stories, literature, theater and film, deal with the conflict of good versus evil. And somebody has to play the bad guys.

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