Based on the New York Times best-selling novel, “The Shack” takes us on a father’s uplifting spiritual journey. After suffering a family tragedy, Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington) spirals into a deep depression causing him to question his innermost beliefs. Facing a crisis of faith, he receives a mysterious letter urging him to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Despite his doubts, Mack journeys to the shack and encounters an enigmatic trio of strangers led by a woman named Papa (Octavia Spencer). Through this meeting, Mack finds important truths that will transform his understanding of his tragedy and change his life forever.
Octavia Spencer, who plays Papa/God, was already a devout fan of the book and carried her own coveted copy with her on set. “I couldn’t imagine not taking this journey. My friend gave me a copy of the book and told me it had forensic thriller aspects to it, with a big surprise. I thought I was going to be reading something very different than the life lesson I was bound to get from The Shack. I was deeply moved because it felt organic. The questions asked of God somehow felt like every man’s journey, including my own. I have experienced loss in my life, but the things that bring you back is your faith, so I understood Mack’s journey in a lot ways.”
For Spencer, the themes in the book and script resonated deeply with her on a very personal level. “What I like about this presentation is that it dispenses with the conventional images of God and what we have in our minds as God,” says Spencer. “It also represents this time in Mack’s life where the only person that showed him any kindness was a woman like myself. She is pure love and wisdom and she is trying to impart that in him while he’s trying to reconcile all his grief, his anger and all the losses in his life. It’s only when he walks back and asks those questions and confronts all those issues in the shack that he’s able to find redemption and fill that hole that loss has created within him.”
Worthington was excited to work with such a dynamic actress like Spencer and enjoyed being challenged, especially in some of the more powerful and intense scenes. “She’s extremely generous and present, such an open actress and one I loved learning from.” Says Worthington.
One of the most heartrending and emotionally charged scenes that Worthington may be alluding to also resonated with Spencer long after the cameras wrapped. “There’s a scene we shot that really touched me at my core,” shares Spencer. “It’s the one where Mack asks God why I brought him back to the shack, a place where he has suffered so much. I tell him it’s because it’s the place where he got stuck. The scene plays out so beautifully because if you’ve gone through any adversity in your life, you wonder if I had a sit down with God, ‘What would I say? What would I ask?’ and Mack asks those really hard-hitting questions. It was one of the most profound things that has ever happened to me in scene work. I know Sam and I had fun doing it — it was painful and wonderful, but there was a lot of growing that we both had as human beings, as well as actors in that moment.”
“The Shack” will open in cinemas nationwide on March 1 from Pioneer Films.