An independent movie called Because of Gracia, which stars a former American Idol contestant who says her appearance on the former Fox show mirrors the experience of her character in the film, has picked up a distribution partner and set an opening date for Sept. 15, 2017, the filmmakers said Friday.
At age 16, Moriah Peters tried out for American Idol and told judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi and Avril Lavigne that she was a Christian who was saving her first kiss for marriage.
Peters said the celebrity judges praised her looks and her singing, but belittled her chaste lifestyle. One judge told her, "You're trying to be too perfect," while another told her, "Go out, kiss a guy, come back," she says.
Now, Peters stars in Because of Gracia, in which she plays a high school girl who is similarly saving herself for marriage. She also sings and is called “perfect” in the movie, just like on American Idol seven years ago.
Peters has spoken of her American Idol experience numerous times, usually on Christian radio (see a couple interviews below). When she read the script for Because of Gracia, directed by Tom Simes, she said she was struck by the similarities to her own life.
"I honestly thought the director built Gracia’s character around my high school experiences," she said. “I was allowed to simply be myself, and it wasn’t difficult to dive into the controversial and tense circumstances.”
In Because of Gracia, Peters plays a pretty girl with a mysterious past who's transitioning to a new high school, where her sudden popularity and goody-two-shoes personality make her the object of scorn among some classmates. John Schneider, the former Dukes of Hazzard teen idol who has appeared in several Christian-themed films of late, stars as the school principal.
“The American Idol experience taught me to risk without regret,” said Peters. “I gave those auditions everything I had and was as transparent as I possibly could have been. But in the end, I wasn’t the kind of candidate they were looking for.”
The film will be distributed by ArtAffects Entertainment, a company founded in 2003 by former Walt Disney distribution executive Daniel Lange and his wife, Margo Lange. A year after the company's founding, the couple booked Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ in about half the nation, and its next film is Champion, an auto-racing movie that is backed by the Baptist church and opens May 19.
The company's plan is to roll out Because of Gracia in 20 markets, then expand slowly.
"We just want to release meaningful films with good messages," said Margo Lange. "Gracia is a small film, but I think it can touch a lot of people."
As for Peters, she says she remained true to her vow and had her first kiss a few years ago when she wed Joel Smallbone.