By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
Steve McEveety isn’t your typical Hollywood producer, and his film, “The Stoning of Soraya M.” proves that. It’s not a feel-good flick, but it does confront a very serious social problem – mistreatment of women – and that’s the whole point of making it.
In a telephone interview with McEveety at Mpower Productions in Hollywood where he is co-founder and CEO, he recalled it started around Christmas in 2007. He receives many scripts to read, mostly bad, but this script, co-written by Iranian-American Cyrus Nowrasteh and his wife Betsy Griffin, was so compelling he read it through without putting it down.
“Someone should make this film,” was his first thought. It wasn’t a great leap to the idea that “someone” should be himself, and he started rounding up backers and assembling a cast, with Nowrasteh as director.
With expatriate Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo and Jim Caviezel (star of “The Passion of the Christ”) as the leads, it quickly went into production, and in conjunction with Roadside Attractions, a June 26 release was set.
The film, based on a true case of an Iranian mother unjustly stoned to death and her aunt’s persistence in exposing the shameful act, is not for the faint of heart. It is a violent tale.
“I don’t think it crossed the line,” McEveety said. “The bigger responsibility is not underplaying the violence. It would be irresponsible to make it less than horrifying. So many victims in the world are suffering.”
McEveety’s other credits include work with Mel Gibson for the graphic but highly moving “The Passion of the Christ,” as well as “Braveheart,” among others.
He was also producer for “Bella,” the 2007 life-affirming film of a young woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Films in production or planning include “Snowmen,” a family film scheduled for future release and “Left to Tell,” the story of a survivor of the Rwandan massacre.
Films that starkly address societal ills usually do not attract the major studios. “Studios are more interested in popcorn films, movies like this don’t play into the system,” McEveety said. For him they are important because the message is important.
He fully expects “The Stoning of Soraya M.” will make a profit since Iran is in the news. The film was well received when it previewed at the Cannes Film Festival, and even Middle Eastern distribution rights were sold. But it isn’t the money. “More important to me is the reaction to the film,” McEveety said.
There is nothing Catholic about “The Stoning of Soraya M.” although McEveety’s own Catholic faith plays a role in the films and values he puts on the screen. He and his wife Susie are members of St. Paschal Parish in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and have four kids, young adult to teens.
Jim Caviezel “is one of my best friends,” he said. “Our kids go to school together.”
After much Hollywood success, when asked what his greatest accomplishment is, he said, “Marrying Susie. That was the best decision in my life.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.