“Leap of Faith” 25th Anniversary Celebration in Plainview

July 26, 2017 | Plainview, Texas

Leap of Faith 25th Anniversary Celebration scheduled for Saturday, August 12th

PLAINVIEW - The City of Plainview, in partnership with the Texas Film Commission, will host a Leap of Faith 25th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, August 12th.

The celebration will begin with self-guided tours of different filming sites from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Maps of the sites will be available at The Broadway Brew (108 E. 7th) and Fair Theater (717 Broadway) as well as online.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m., a reception honoring Director Richard Pearce will be held at The Broadway Brew. Mr. Pearce will be on hand to visit and tell stories about filming the movie in Plainview and memorabilia from the movie as well as drinks and snacks will be available.

Following the reception will be a viewing of the movie at the Fair Theater (717 Broadway) beginning at 7:00 p.m. The event is free, the public is encouraged to attend and concessions will be available. Director Richard Pearce will have a question and answer time following the movie (around 9:00 p.m.).

“For those of us living around Plainview during the filming, it was quite an adventure,” says Melinda Brown, CVB Coordinator/Main Street Director. “With the 25th Anniversary happening this year, we wanted to celebrate. We couldn’t be more excited to have Director Richard Pearce joining us!”

Leap of Faith included two months of preproduction and 11 days of actual shooting in the summer of 1992. The short stay of filming pumped more than one million dollars into the Plainview economy and many residents had the opportunity to not only view the filming but serve as extras in the movie as well.

Leap of Faith is a story about touring Christian evangelist Jonas Nightengale (Steve Martin) and his cohorts who tend to put on their bogus faith-healing revivals in major cities, where hefty donations flow freely. But, when Jonas and company find themselves stuck in a remote nook of Kansas, they decide to perform for the locals and take them for all they are worth. The shows go off without a hitch, until sensible lawman Will Braverman (Liam Neeson) catches on to the scam and vows to prove to everyone that Jonas is a fake.

The filming not only brought notable stars such as Steve Martin and Debra Winger, but also introduced Plainview (and audiences) to MeatLoaf and Liam Neison. The movie grossed more than twenty-three million and was produced by Paramount Pictures.

“The Texas Film Commission is proud to celebrate Leap of Faith with the City of Plainview.  We hope this 25th anniversary celebration shines a spotlight on this beautiful town and its gracious community who were so essential to the film’s success,” says Heather Page, Director of the Texas Film Commission.  “Leap of Faith is one of a number of classic films shot throughout Texas in the 90’s that kept Texas in front of the eyes of the world, and we are excited that this anniversary provides an opportunity for a new generation of viewers to fall in love with the film and Plainview just as so many did when the film was first released.”

Director Richard Pearce has thought of Plainview on many accounts, not just directing Leap of Faith. “Back in early 2013, I woke up one morning to find an article in the NY Times about the devastating consequences to a small West Texas town from the third worst drought in Texas history. Before it was officially declared over in May of 2015, the four and half year drought had dried up pastures and forced local ranchers to sell off most of their livestock, ultimately bringing about the closure of the town's biggest employer: the Cargill meat processing plant. At the end of the article, the reporter wrote about a group of local residents encircling the Cargill plant praying for a miracle. My heart literally skipped a beat.

It had been 15 years since I had last been to Plainview, Texas. I had come looking for locations for a Hollywood "comedy/drama" about a fake faith healer named Jonas Nightingale (played by Steve Martin) who, while stranded during a severe drought in a "small West Texas town" (read: Plainview) almost despite himself succeeds in bringing about an actual "miracle" (read: a rainstorm).

I sat staring at that New York Times article that morning and thought about the strange ways in which Art imitates Life and Life imitates Art. Back in 1998, I had chosen Plainview not only because of its photogenic big sky West Texas landscape but also because it seemed to sit at the literal epicenter of the one of the country's driest (read: dryland) agricultural regions. Plainview would be the perfect place to set this fictional story of a small town experiencing a devastating drought.

The only problem was that by the time we arrived to actually shoot the movie, the town of Plainview had had one of the wettest springs that anyone in the town could remember. The result was that no matter where you looked, the fields around Plainview were bright florescent green with the "miracle" of dryland agriculture. And this was years before Hollywood discovered the miracle of CGI (i.e., computer graphics). Whatever we filmed would be what the theater audience would see. Yikes... Life and Art seemed to be on a collision course, and there seemed to be no way to avoid it. What to do?

(Stay tuned.)”

 “We invite everyone to come join us not just to find out more about Director Pearce’s story but to also enjoy this piece of Plainview history,” said Brown. “It will be fun and memorable.”

For more information about the event, please contact Melinda Brown at 296-1119 or mbrown@plainviewtx.org.

Additional Resources:

Schedule of events

Broadway Brew on the Texas Classics Trail