Richard Rossi is a multitalented actor and filmmaker who has worked in almost area aspect of filmaking from camera and editing to music and wardrobe. His specialty, though, are his award winning documentaries.
When did you first develop an interest in acting?
I started performing on stage at seven years old, playing guitar. In high school, I had a great drama teacher, Mr. Woffington, who gave me an outlet for the desire to act. I worked as a minister in my young adult years, and congregants told me I had a thespian preaching style of acting things out. I got what some might call a late start acting professionally in Hollywood in my mid-thirties.
What was your first acting role?
The first film I acted in after my wife, two children and I moved 3,000 miles cross country from my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. to Hollywood was in a film entitled Jesus 2000. The premise was telling the story of the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus happening now. I played a reporter on the trail of the Jesus story.
What led to your involvement in film/tv acting?
My wife and I started a ministry that involved praying for the sick and ministry to AIDS patients. After we received some publicity for people testifying prayer helped heal them, I had the opportunity to work on a film documentary investigating the role of prayer in healing. While editing that movie Quest for Truth, I met a director from India named Amin Q. Chaudhri. He stoked my interest in filmmaking and acting. He made films at his studio in Pennsylvania with actors like Sharon Stone, Patrick Swayze, Forrest Whitaker, and Sherilyn Fenn. Between films, he lived in L.A. on Muholland Drive as a neighbor to Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson. He told me “If you ever move to California kid, look me up.” After our cross-country move, I played the lead role of Elmer Gantry in a play about the charismatic fictional evangelist. It was a part that came to me easily, having been a healing evangelist myself. Here’s a link to me doing a monologue from ‘Elmer Gantry”:
What faith-based films have you been involved in?
I made two prior films about Aimee Semple McPherson, a famous female evangelist in the 1920’s. (she was the inspiration for the prior film and novel Elmer Gantry). Two of Hollywood’s Royal Families starred in Sister Aimee. Director/Actor Ron Howard (aka “Opie” on the Andy Griffith Show and “Richie Cunningham” on Happy Days) got in the business because of his actor-father Rance Howard who play’s Aimee’s father in the film. (In the trailer below he’s on the horse talking to her.)
The second member of Hollywood Royalty starring in the film is Charlie Chaplin’s beautiful blonde granddaughter Kiera Chaplin.
Here’s the trailer from my film Sister Aimee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvBovQ6Hczc
I’ve been blessed with wonderful collaborators and publicity on those films and my last film on my childhood hero Roberto Clemente. Clemente was a Christian baseball player remembered for being baseball’s greatest right fielder in history, but also for dying in a humanitarian mission trip to Nicaragua. Baseball’s Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories starred two-time Olympian Jamie Nieto as Roberto, Project Runway Winner Marilinda Rivera as his wife, and me as the scout “Birddog” who convinces Clemente to play for the last place Pirates.
You can watch trailer HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p22ueAmYRk8
I was Academy Award-considered for my first film on Aimee, entitled Saving Sister Aimee. I received a letter from Pope Francis about my movie on Clemente. The theme of the Clemente film is John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends…”
Besides actor, what other film roles have you had?
I wrote and directed my two movies about Aimee Semple McPherson and my film about Roberto Clemente. I’m a musician also and contribute original music to films.
What led to your interest in making documentaries?
I’ve made three documentaries, and I like the cinema verite style of letting the story unfold in front of the cameras.
What are you currently working on?
Looking back on my years as a healing evangelist, I never did anything fraudulent to fake healings. I prayed sincerely wanting God to heal people, and refused to report healings without medical verification. I was honest when people weren’t healed and up front about the suffering we go through. However, my time in that world allowed me to see shocking tricks some big names do. Some fake miracles, such as a gold dust stunt… a rigged trick they claim is angel feathers and gold flakes falling from Heaven.
My new movie, Canaan Land: The Saga of Sister Sara and Brother Gantry though fiction, will expose how some false prophets hurt people. Canaan Land is about a consummate charismatic con man played by me, meeting “Sister Sara,” a female faith healing evangelist. Over 1,000 actresses have tried for the lead and our casting associates have it narrowed down to a few stellar candidates. Sara’s a true believer. Here’s a very short animated promo of the contrast between the pure Sister Sara & the con man Brother Gantry: CANAAN LAND: Animation Promo for Controversial Film
We’re currently raising funds for our new feature “Canaan Land” through Go Fund Me at http://www.gofundme.com/canaanland Click here to support Canaan Land: The Feature Film by Richard Rossi All donations are tax deductible.