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'Celestine Prophecy' Author Puts Spiritual Tale on Silver Screen

The author of a popular book from the 1990s, The Celestine Prophecy, has brought his vision of a world of adventure and mystery to the Hollywood movie screen. In Los Angeles, VOA's Mike O'Sullivan spoke with writer James Redfield about the film version of his best-selling novel.

It is the latest of a string of films that deal with religious themes, a list that includes Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, the C.S. Lewis fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia, and the upcoming thriller The Da Vinci Code, based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown.

The Celestine Prophecy was first published in 1993, and it follows the adventures of a man who goes to Peru in search of ancient scrolls. The quest involves a spiritual as well as physical journey, and after the book was published, author James Redfield became something of a guru in the New Age movement, which is based on ideas of unlimited human potential. He says the book was a novel with a message.

"It's really what I call an adventure parable," Redfield explains. "So it really is about going deeper into quality of life, going deeper into a sense of sacredness about the world and the environment, and rekindling the mystery of our own personal destinies."

Self-published at first, The Celestine Prophecy was later picked up by Warner Books, and it stayed on the New York Times bestsellers list for three years.

The project was an act of faith by the writer, who says several small publishers agreed to release it, but he said no.

"We just decided if it was going to be published by a small publisher, that small publisher might as well be us. So we went forward and gave about 1,500 books away to small bookshops, and it just became a referral book. It became a pass-along book," he says.

By way of friend-to-friend referrals, The Celestine Prophecy became a best-seller and has now sold 14 million copies. In 1996, it was followed by another work, The Tenth Insight, and The Secret of Shambhala three years later. With books now translated into some 50 languages, the writer thought the time was right to turn his first book into a movie.

It is a moderately budgeted film with some well-known performers, including Hector Elizondo and two accomplished German-born actors, Thomas Kretschmann and Jurgen Prochnow. The film stars Matthew Settle and Annabeth Gish in the leading roles.

Shot on location in Florida and Costa Rica, the film version of The Celestine Prophecy is now showing in 11 US cities.

Redfield co-wrote the script and co-produced the movie. He is also distributing it, saying that Hollywood actor-director Mel Gibson opened the way for independent productions with a spiritual theme. In 2004, Gibson produced and distributed his highly successful The Passion of the Christ, bypassing the studios and relying on churches to spread the word. Mr. Redfield has shown his production to church groups, hoping to raise interest in the film.

Mr. Redfield says his movie follows his book closely and blends entertainment with a spiritual message, based partly on eastern spirituality and mysticism. Despite its New Age theme, he believes the film will appeal to people across the religious spectrum.

"It begins and ends with the sense that there's a mystery about our lives if we pay attention, the way we meet people at certain times, the way we have questions and suddenly, someone comes through and delivers an answer," he says. "We have an intuition to change a job and go in another direction and suddenly, something happens quite coincidentally to open that door. "

Doors open for the characters in the film, who are led by fate to a set of ancient prophecies that bring them to a deeper self-awareness.

The Celestine Prophecy movie will open overseas within a few months and should come out of DVD later this year.