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Richard Rossi

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Modern Day Elmer Gantry Film in the Works: an Edgy Look at Religion Rocks the Boat

Hollywood, CA, March 24, 2016 --( Former faith-healer turned movie-maker Richard Rossi is making his own 21st Century film version of the archetypal story of an Elmer Gantryish lusty, con-man preacher. The movie, entitled "Canaan Land," is in pre-production, raising funds on GoFundMe as Rossi polishes his script with last-minute modifications.

The controversial clergyman made a journey from scripture to script, acting in various roles including the part of Elmer Gantry in a stage version of the role in Los Angeles. Rossi will play the lead role of a charismatic, con man preacher in the film, tentatively set to film in fall 2016, and for release in 2017.

The original film version of "Elmer Gantry" won three 1960 Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Burt Lancaster, and Best Supporting Actress for Shirley Jones. Rossi's story is not a remake of Gantry, but an updated story based on his own experiences in evangelism.

Rossi received notoriety in his past as a preacher for his rock 'n' roll style of preaching. He released a contemporary Christian music album and wrote, edited and co-produced a documentary on the healing power of prayer in the early '90s.

Rossi and his wife now live in Los Angeles, where they lead "Eternal Grace," a ministry to actors, artist, writers, and some celebrities who like private home services to avoid paparazzi.

Eternal Grace has been protested by fundamentalists like the late Fred ("God Hates Fags") Phelps, for Rossi's lenient attitude towards homosexuals and message of the unconditional love of God for all. Rossi's daughter Karis is graduating in the Spring with a Theology degree from Azusa Pacific University, and plans to help him in leading the ministry while he is shooting the film.

Funds raised through GoFundMe go to Eternal Grace, a verified 501c3 non-profit with bylaws that express a mission of sharing a message of hope and love through the arts and starting new Eternal Grace groups. All film donations to GoFundMe for "Canaan Land" qualify therefore as tax-deductible donations.

In Rossi's screenplay, his character is redeemed by the love of Sister Sara Sunday, a pure believer. Over 1,000 actresses auditioned for the female lead of Sara, and only seven made it to the final round of consideration. The casting of the part has not yet been finalized.

Earlier this month, Christian Today magazine reported Rossi was threatened by some of the biggest names in televangelism because his script will reveal some of the tricks famous faith healers use to fool their audiences, that until now, have remained closely guarded trade secrets.

"I'm not doing it to attack anyone, or defame anyone by name," Rossi said. "I simply believe that the artist can tell the truth, often far better than religious or political figures. Jesus said the truth shall set us free."

Rossi's previous films he's directed or acted in include two on the life of fabled female evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, a biopic of baseball legend Roberto Clemente, and a story of battling the devil with Malcolm McDowell as Satan.
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Richard Rossi

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