Since its initial release ten years ago, the Kendrick Brothers’ Courageous has impacted fathers across the world with its message of serving and protecting families. One of the greatest cinematic success stories of 2011, this unlikely film produced by a church in rural Georgia became the number one new movie in its first weekend of release that year and went on to gross more than $34 million dollars.
Releasing in theaters nationwide this weekend, the original film has been remastered with several new scenes added to enhance a message that could never be more vital than at this time. Courageous Legacy, as it is now known, focuses on raising our children in a God-honoring way.
I recently spoke to brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick about their reasoning for re-releasing Courageous as Courageous Legacy and what we can instill and teach our children to set them up to be great parents in the future.
Ten years ago, Courageous was released as the follow-up to Fireproof and it did remarkably well. Why the decision to reboot it at this point?
Alex Kendrick: When we realized we were coming up on 10 years, we started thinking about the fact that the principles presented in Courageous are just as applicable today as they were a decade ago. And we have a new generation of fathers that didn’t have their kids a decade ago. So, these men are going to look at this movie differently than if they had seen it when they were teenagers or even in their early twenties. We began talking about if it’s the same movie, but a new generation, what would we do differently? From there, we went back to the original edit. We opened it back up, we re-edited the movie. It moves a little different now. If you watch it now, it will feel familiar, but it moves at a different pace. We then added new shots. Some deleted scenes are back in the movie, and we shot a brand new ending. We upgraded the special effects. We re-colored the movie as a different color palette. We added score to it. Every aspect of his movie has been redone. And so, when you watch this version, you’ll sit there and you’ll think, well, this is familiar. I feel like I’ve seen it before, but there’s so many things I haven’t seen. It seems new. And we have some surprising new twists at the end of this film. It was a lot of fun to do this. I think when people watch this version of the movie, they are going to leave with a smile on their face. We also wanted to bring a new level of hope and encouragement to men who did not do it well in their early days of fathering.
It sounds like you have deconstructed and rebuilt Courageous to be Courageous Legacy. What was the inspiration for doing this and strategically what had to happen to make it come together?
Stephen Kendrick: We were excited about it, especially when we began to brainstorm the potential of going back and streamlining some scenes, adding more emotion to others, and even adding the new ending. There was this sense of rightness about this, that the Lord was in this. And so, we went into the project with a lot of hope and excitement. It was interesting because it’s been years since we sat down and watched Courageous. When you’re making a movie, you see it so many times in the editing room, and then you watch it for months in theaters during the marketing season, that when it’s over with and it comes out on DVD, you’re ready to move on to something different. But we’ve got 10 years of more filmmaking experience under our belts and we’ve learned a lot in the process.
Going back and re-watching Courageous with fresh eyes was a very interesting experience because there were multiple moments in the movie where I couldn’t remember what’s going to happen next or what the actors were going to say next. The jokes caught me fresh, the emotions caught me fresh, and the intensity at the ending felt new. Even though we wrote, directed, produced, and edited the film, it was hitting us with fresh eyes in a different way. At the same time, there were elements that were in the movie that we were seeing from a more objective perspective. It was a very interesting dynamic to be able to go back and work on the film in this way. Also, we were able to pull up the reviews and fan and responses from various places and find out what people like, or what did they not like. What can we go back and fix know and make it even better?
As you demonstrated in the first edition of Courageous and now your new documentary Show Me the Father, the importance of being a good father has never been more important. What can we teach and instill in young men to set them up to be great fathers in the future?
Alex Kendrick: That’s something we could talk all day about. So, let me give you a couple of bullet points. Number one, the role of a dad is the child’s first concept of what God is like. What I mean by that is when my dad is loving, when he listens to me, when he is there for me, when he’s teaching me, then my first concept of God the father is that He is loving. He’s wanting to teach me. He wants to be there for me. If my dad is absent, if he’s not interested in me, if he pushes me to the back burner, then my first concept of God is that He’s probably not interested in me and pushes me to the back burner.
So, when a father understands, it’s not just you, you are reflecting this father concept to your son or your daughter. When they hear Father God, our Heavenly Father in heaven, that father concept is going to take heart. They’re going to process it much the same way. And so, if you think about it, your earliest concept of God is probably very similar to what you thought of your dad. And when a young father understands that, he realizes, wow, this is not just about me providing. This is about me nurturing, loving, leading, and teaching. Being a good father is so much more than just bringing home a paycheck.
And secondly, when I love my kids this is something I would say when a dad has the hearts of his children and they know he loves them. They are more likely to listen to what he says. But if a dad is distant, if he’s not involved in his child’s life, even if he shows up and says something that’s truthful, they are less likely to receive it because they don’t feel loved by him. Here’s my point. You and I will listen to the people we believe love us the most. And so, if I question whether one of my parents loves me, it’s less likely I will take to heart what they say. That’s why so many young people, if they’re rebellious or if they’re not getting along with their parents will tend to listen to their friends more than their parents. I would say to a young father and mother, look, you have to nurture and capture the heart of your children. Pray for the heart of your children, that they will listen to you. And in turn, you have to demonstrate that they have a precious place in your heart, that you are grateful that they’re your children, and that you love them. And when they know that they are more likely to listen to you.
What are some valuable lessons you learned from Courageous that you have incorporated into Courageous Legacy?
Stephen Kendrick: I think looking back and watching Courageous with fresh eyes, the original movie has moments where it is slower than it needs to be, or we were milking too much emotion (in certain scenes). And so, we went back and we thought, how can we make the story fly faster? So, Alex went through every scene and took away any lines, any moments, any looks, or any pauses that were unnecessary. And I remember just watching the new edit thinking, man, this is moving along so much better. That process actually opened up the timeline for us to be able to add in some scenes that we shot 10 years ago that we weren’t able to feature in the original cut.
The other thing is the acting. We’ve noticed that when you’re sitting in a room and you’re watching a line over and over and over and over again, it kind of grows on you and you start thinking it’s pretty good acting, but when you see it for the first time with fresh eyes, it’s the best judgment of that ability to act usually. We were able to go back through and say, okay, how can we improve the acting with what we leave in or take out in the edit?
After people have seen Courageous Legacy, what would you like to see audiences get out of the viewing experience? What is your greatest hope for the movie?
Alex Kendrick: The first time around, we had, especially men, that left with a clearer standard of what God calls us to do as dads. We were astonished at how many men’s groups, Bible study groups, churches, police departments, etc. … had their own Resolution Challenge for their men. A lot of them did a resolution ceremony. I have been so encouraged even in other countries that I’ve been to … Brazil, Ecuador, Costa Rica, different places I have spoken, and a man would pull me into his office or his living room and show me the Resolution on the wall. And I was just like, wow! It is literally all over the place. From Africa, Europe, Canada, and other places, we’ve gotten feedback from men doing a resolution ceremony. So, if anything, if we can be a part of encouraging, challenging, and lifting up a godly standard for fatherhood, and it helps men to see it more clearly and then to strive for it, that is fulfilling.
We never want to do that in a legalistic way. We would love to see people walking out of the theater saying, “I want to do the same thing. I need to live by the same standards. I need to pour more intentionally into my kids. I need God’s help to do it. I need a prayer strategy for it.” If we can point them in that direction, that’s success.
Stephen Kendrick: I know with COVID, it has shut down not only churches but men’s groups and men’s ministries too. We’ve heard that as churches have begun to meet again in person, many of those ministries have not restarted yet. We would love for Courageous Legacy to be a tool that churches can use to re-inspire and re-engage their men’s ministries and men’s groups. And as always, the Gospel is communicated in the movie and we’ve seen many people come to Christ from Courageous originally. And so, we would love it if people come to know the Lord through watching the film, especially this new generation of dads. They need to see what it looks like for a man to repent and step up. They’ve got a lot of areas of their lives, where we need to surrender more fully to the Lordship of Christ. And I think seeing these four men in the movie make a decision that they’re going to move forward and try to step up will help with that. This generation really needs to be reminded of this again.
Watch a Trailer for Courageous Legacy: