Author of the book and executive producer of the film “The Case for Christ,” Lee Strobel, who was joined by his wife Leslie, visited APU for a special event during Holy Week.
Azusa Pacific screened the box office hit, “The Case for Christ,” on April 4, 2023. The film, based on the dramatic testimony of Lee Strobel and the book written by Strobel of the same title, was shown to an estimated couple of hundred members of APU’s community. The event kicked off with free In-N-Out and concluded with a Q&A session with Lee and his wife Leslie Stroble, who flew in from Colorado.
Before the screening, President Adam Morris chatted with students, waiting in line for In-N-Out. As everyone made their way into UTCC, President Morris opened the movie with a prayer, causing the room to fall to a hush. For the next one hour and 50 minutes, the audience was transfixed.
The movie, a 70s period piece, detailed how Strobel, a former atheist and journalist, investigated Christianity in order to disprove his wife’s new faith. The crowd laughed at every witty line, and some were even brought to tears.
Freshman Kailey Snyder summarized this reception saying, “I was sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I sobbed multiple times.”
The scene that touched Snyder most was when Strobel finally found God. She added that, at that moment, a natural radiance glowed on Strobel’s face which had not been present throughout the entirety of the film.
During the Q&A session, Zachary Cheney, PhD, who led the interview, commented on how that conversion moment could have been corny, yet it wasn’t. Strobel said a lot went into telling that scene honestly. Initially, they were so worried about the scene becoming cheesy they almost didn’t include it. However, it was the non-believer test audiences that advocated most for it.
The Q&A session gave several additional insights. Most surprising to some was the actor who played Lee Strobel, Mike Vogel, cut his hair (upon his wife’s plea) before he knew about the role, his hair in the movie actually was a $2000 wig. Sophomore Kaleigh Ammon said, “I knew there was something funky going on with it.” A bystander to the interview, sophomore Naomi Aasland, interjected, arguing with Ammon that the wig actually looked incredible on Vogel.
Although Vogel might have burned the wig after the film, saying wearing it felt like a squirrel on his head, the role itself meant a lot to him. Vogel had a similar testimony to Strobel’s in that he was raised in the faith, but fell away from Christianity in high school. Fascinatingly, it was actually “The Case for Christ” book that drove Vogel towards Jesus once again.
Faye Dunaway’s newly found faith also attracted her to the film. Despite injuring herself right before filming, she determinedly acted as one of Strobel’s interviewees, Dr. Roberta Waters.
Adding to the set’s faith filled atmosphere, the late Robert Forster, who played Lee’s dad, made sure to step in as a father figure in real life to Lee. He also gifted the entire cast and crew with a beautifully wrapped letter opener.
Although not everyone on set was Christian, Strobel said “they had prayer time every morning and eventually the people who were non-believers became really engaged … It was clear God was involved from the very beginning.”
It certainly felt like fate or divine providence brought the film together. There were documentaries that came out about “The Case for Christ,” but Strobel thought that would be the extent of it. That was until one week in 2015, both Sony and Pureflix called asking for the rights to his story. Pureflix eventually took it with Strobel’s stipulation that Brian Bird would write the script.
The movie was released in 2017. While this was six years ago, President Morris knew it would be relevant to Holy Week. “I’ve seen the movie several times, but I watched it recently and thought this is a movie that we have to show on campus,” he said.
Ammon agreed that it was fitting for the holiday. In the scene where the crucifixion was described in graphic detail, Ammon said she became an emotional wreck. Because of this reminder of the weight of the cross, she thanks Morris for taking the initiative to hold this event.
Snyder is also grateful for her film professor, who, ten minutes into class, asked his students if they would like to take a field trip to get In-n-Out and attend the screening. For Snyder, it was a great class. She especially enjoyed the Q&A session. “Seeing Leslie and Lee interact with one another, me and my friend were just like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re so cute!’ And hearing Leslie speak, I could really tell the actor who played her had thoroughly studied her mannerisms,” Snyder said.
For those impressed by “The Case for Christ,” be on the lookout for Strobel’s newest collaborative project based on his book, “The Case for Miracles.” This will be a documentary filmed in Arizona, and it’s set to release this December. With this — who knows — perhaps the Strobels will be back at APU to present a new screening in the future.