"It's a pastor who's not walking around in a robe, a man of the cloth. I have seen that guy, but I really haven't seen this guy," Kinnear says. "He's a wrestling coach, a volunteer firefighter and repairs garage doors. He's a dad and father. That felt honest and real to me, coming from a small town myself. I had an instant connection because this wasn't that one-note character I had seen before."
Kinnear hadn't read the book before signing on to the project. When he heard the story for the first time, he was convinced it would make a compelling movie — even if it wasn't based on a true story.
"I think the film has been opened up to more than a church-going audience," Kinnear says. "Regardless if you believe in heaven or you don't, that's secondary to the journey of this family in a small town."
Co-star Thomas Haden Church hadn't heard of the book when he was sent the script. After making movies like "Sideways" and "Spider-Man 3," Church wasn't certain if being part of a faith-based movie was the right career choice. His mind was changed when he visited the widow of his longtime cattle partner and saw the book on her table.
Church stops short of saying that was a sign, but it was the point when he decided to do the movie.