Kirk Cameron says people don't come up to him wanting to talk about his TV show Growing Pains.
That seems a tad surprising, considering even, say, a child star as famous in adulthood as Ron Howard says he still has people coming up to him to talk about his days playing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show.
But when Cameron goes out to meet the public these days, it is often closely related to his latest film work, Fireproof.
The 2008 movie was the most recent production by Sherwood Pictures, based at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. Cameron, 39, played a firefighter whose seven-year marriage is fizzling until he makes a commitment to Christianity.
It's the latest faith-based film for Cameron, who also starred in the Left Behind series of films, based on the apocalyptic novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. In addition to being the top independent film of 2008, Fireproof launched a hit book, The Love Dare, and several events. Those include a series of conferences by Cameron and Christian music star Warren Barfield, whose Love Is Not a Fight was the movie's theme song.
Cameron and Barfield's "Love Worth Fighting For" event comes to Lexington on March 6 for two sessions at Immanuel Baptist Church. It's the first tour stop of the event that was started by Knoxville-based Feed Your Faith.
"Someone at Feed Your Faith had this great idea about putting together a concert where Warren would be singing songs about marriage and sharing some personal stories, and he's got some great ones — they're funny and inspiring," Cameron says. "They combined that with a couple messages I had been giving on how to rescue a failing marriage, how to fireproof your marriage. And we put that together and we had a wonderful result."
Barfield says, "My goal is to see some family trees change, some marriages last that were going to break up, some children born who maybe never would have been conceived because their parents split up."
The song Love Is Not a Fight was the result of a rough patch in Barfield's own marriage, and it turned out to be the perfect song to go with the story about marital strife.
It's a story that attracted Hollywood star Cameron to work with the Southern film outfit, which had cranked out two previous hits, Flywheel (2003) and Facing the Giants (2006), almost entirely on volunteer effort.
"When I read the script, I thought it was a home run and I wanted to do it. I thought this is a story millions of people will relate to. It will strike a chord deep within their souls," says Cameron, who has been married for more than 18 years to former Growing Pains co-star Chelsea Noble. They have six children.
"Nobody goes to the altar, stands in front of their family and friends and God, and plans on failing. It's devastating when a family is shattered and torn apart. So, when I read the Fireproof script, I thought, 'These guys just nailed it with the story and the solution. ...
"When it comes to marriage, there needs to be a revival in the heart, one that causes a man or woman to die to this idea of you're supposed to serve me and make me happy, and makes them alive to the idea that God wants me to be a better husband and a better wife."
Barfield recalls, "When I saw the movie, and Caleb Holt (Cameron's character) is losing his temper with his wife and telling her she's worthless, I said, 'Man, I have been that guy.'"
Faith-based film wasn't a career track Cameron saw when he was playing bad boy Mike Seaver on Growing Pains from 1985 to 1992.
"Twenty years ago, I never would have thought I'd be starring in Christian films because I wasn't even a Christian," Cameron says.
But now, between Left Behind, Fireproof and The Way of the Master series he hosts, carried on several Christian networks, Cameron has emerged as something of a leading man in the world of faith-based film.
He admires what some Christian filmmakers have accomplished but doesn't necessarily think there has to be a Christian film industry parallel to mainstream film.
"I don't know the best way to advance the hopes and dreams of Christians that have a message and want to get it out through film," Cameron says. "I think people should continue to write great stories and get them produced.
"Look at Fireproof. Sony eventually got on board with a little church that produced films on a shoestring budget. So you can say, 'Was Fireproof a mainstream movie, or was it a Christian movie?' It was the No. 1 independent movie of 2008. It was shown in movie theaters, not church basements. So it was a mainstream movie. But you could also say it was a Christian movie because it was the story of a man whose life was changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Whether they are Christian or mainstream, movies like Fireproof are what Cameron wants to be making.
"I'm thankful for filmmakers, artists, who use their talents to tell stories that are hopeful, that spark revival in the hearts of families and marriages," Cameron says. "I'm looking forward to being part of more of them."