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Major Stars And Teams Of Animators Bring 'The Prophet' To Screen

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Major Stars And Teams Of Animators Bring 'The Prophet' To Screen

Movie Interviews

Major Stars And Teams Of Animators Bring 'The Prophet' To Screen

Major Stars And Teams Of Animators Bring 'The Prophet' To Screen

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Khalil Gibran's blockbuster, The Prophet, hits theaters this weekend. Animated in the tradition of Disney's Fantasia, The Prophet is a collection of poems musing on joy, sorrow, marriage and death.


"The Prophet," the book by Kahlil Gibran, has sold over 100 million copies since it first came out in 1923. This weekend, the book makes its big-screen debut. It's an animated film in the tradition of Disney's "Fantasia," and reporter R.H. Greene says it took perseverance and major star power to get it into theaters.

R.H. GREENE, BYLINE: Actress Salma Hayek reserves the role of producer for passion projects, for films like "Frida" or the TV show "Ugly Betty." "The Prophet" has been a labor of love.

SALMA HAYEK: So it's been really tough to sell the film from the beginning.

GREENE: The animated film is experimental and based on prose poetry, not an easy sell.

HAYEK: Distributors who have cried when the watched the film, they say, I love it. I don't know how to market this. It's an intimate experience, and it's very hard for distributors to understand this.

GREENE: Still, Gibran's work is known around the world, and he's a national hero in his native Lebanon. Hayek is a quarter Lebanese. She says she feels deeply connected to Gibran's work.

HAYEK: My grandfather, who was Lebanese, and I was very close to him, and he had the book on his bedside table all the time. My grandfather was the first person that died that was close to me.


LIAM NEESON: (As Mustafa) Yes, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

HAYEK: And when I read this book, I felt that my grandfather was talking to me about life.


NEESON: (As Mustafa) But let there be spaces in your togetherness.

GREENE: Gibran's book is a series of philosophical prose poems on marriage, death and the other great signposts of life.

ROGER ALLERS: Because he's gone to this deep central place, I think it touches people in a deep central place.

GREENE: That's writer-director Roger Allers. Over his long career at Disney, he worked on "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty And The Beast," "Aladdin," and co-directed "The Lion King." The biggest challenge of "The Prophet," Allers says, was the story itself.

ALLERS: The actual narrative of the book is very, very slim. A man has been stuck somewhere, and, one morning, he wakes up and sees this ship and knows he's to go. And on his way there, people ask him some questions, and then he leaves. It's really almost nothing more than that.

GREENE: Allers fashioned it into a coming-of-age story with Liam Neeson as Mustafa, who uses poetry to help a mute child find her voice.


QUVENZHANE WALLIS: (As Almitra) You - you can fly.

NEESON: (As Mustafa) What? What did you say?

WALLIS: (As Almitra) Spirit.

NEESON: (As Mustafa) Yes, spirit.

GREENE: Mustafa recites Gibran's poetry throughout the movie. The poems were interpreted by an international who's-who of animators.

ALLERS: The concept was, oh, boy, let's get these people of very different visions, very different styles, to come up with their interpretation of poems.

NINA PALEY: They bent over backwards, certainly, to accommodate me.

GREENE: Nina Paley's segment is based on Gibran's most famous poem.


NEESON: (As Mustafa) Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself.

GREENE: Paley's "On Children" is a startling collage of mystical images against a musical setting by Damian Rice.


DAMIAN RICE: (Singing) Your children...

GREENE: Paley sees "On Children" as a poem about the creative process.

PALEY: I'm child-free, right? Like, I'm not interested in literal children. I quote "On Children" all the time in relation to art. Your children are not your children. Your book is not your book. Your movie is not your movie. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.


RICE: (Singing) You may give them your love but not your thought.

GREENE: "The Prophet" is darker as a film than as a book, with Mustafa the poet sentenced to die for his work. For Salma Hayek, this makes the movie of "The Prophet" timely and profound.

HAYEK: I think it's important to remember that it was an Arab man who wrote this book that has united religions, all creeds, all different kinds of people around the world. And I think it's great to remember this in these times when we are so easy and so fast to judge and generalize. And it gives hope. It gives me hope.

GREENE: It's a message Hayek hopes will resonate with audiences, too. For NPR News, I'm R.H. Greene.

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