Rapid City native's biblical novels to hit the silver screenCliff Graham’s re-creation of King David called ‘gritty and intense;’ Old Testament stories inspired by thrill of '300.'
By: Jennifer Jungwirth, The Daily Republic
A South Dakota native is taking a shot at the movie industry, bringing the biblical character of David and his band of warriors to the big screen in what he calls “the largest and most ambitious Bible series ever attempted.”
Cliff Graham, of Utah and formerly of Rapid City and a military chaplain, is working with filmmakers David Cunningham and Grant Curtis, along with screenwriter John Fusco, on the film “Day of War.” It’s based on Graham’s first novel of the same name. Curtis is well known for his production of the “Spider-Man” films, and Fusco has also worked on Hollywood hits including “Young Guns” and “Hidalgo.” The team formed the production company GiantKillers for the project.
“It’s basically the ‘Braveheart,’ ‘Gladiator’ treatment of King David and the Bible,” said Graham of his novels and the movie. “It’s a gritty and intense approach to that.
“When people think of this story, they think of David as a boy throwing pebbles at Goliath. There’s more to that story.”
The film is set in ancient Israel, where Benaiah is searching for a new start. He’s joined a band of warriors, the Mighty Men, led by David. Some of the warriors are loyal to their leader, while others only seek wealth. Over the course of 10 days, the Mighty Men and David fight epic battles to survive and establish the throne for the future King David.
The film opens a window on the life of David through his warriors, the Mighty Men, found in Samuel 2:23 and Chronicles 1:11, Graham said.
The filming process began in 2006, and Graham, along with the rest of the GiantKillers production team, is approaching the project in a similar format as the “Lord of the Rings.” Hawaii was chosen as the home for a $12 million facility, which will be used to film the entire series.
Graham expects it to take 10 years to film a possible five movies.
The idea to tell David’s story in such a compelling way first came to mind while Graham worked as a youth pastor.
“I saw how the teenage boys were not responding to a lot of things we were teaching them in the Bible,” Graham said.
At the same time he was trying to teach biblical lessons to the boys, the film “300” hit theaters. Many of the teenagers were intrigued by the film.
“I thought there are things from the Old Testament that are just as thrilling,” said Graham, referring to the intense battle scenes of the popular film.
So the writing began.
“I hacked away from 10 p.m. to midnight each night and just chased this dream,” said Graham of writing his novels. “One thing just led to the next.”
Once Graham completed the first novel, a self-published copy was sent to one of Graham’s former youth students who worked in Los Angeles. The book was given to a friend, and the copy eventually found its way into the hands of Cunningham.
Graham’s first novel, “Day of War” published in June 2011. The second of the five-part series, “Covenant of War,” is due out in February.
The film will follow the book closely, Graham said, but there will be some dissimilarity.
“When you turn a 380-page novel into a two and a half hour movie, there’s a lot of hacking done,” he said.
He added that in his book, it’s assumed the reader already has a knowledgeable background of David’s character. In the movie, the writers have added more of David’s origin.
“I’m pleased with the final results,” Graham said. “You can’t keep everything that it’s in a novel (on the big screen). The important stuff is in the (movie).”