Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Return to Transcripts main page


Profiles of Pope Benedict XVI and Mel Gibson

Aired August 20, 2005 - 17:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Suzanne Malveaux. PEOPLE IN THE NEWS in a moment, but first, here's what's happening "Now in the News". The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate is resting at home this weekend after suffering a mild stroke earlier in the week. Nevada Senator Harry Reid's office says he sought medical attention Tuesday when he began to feel lightheaded. Reid was not hospitalized, and doctors have not placed any restrictions on his activities.
Authorities in Philadelphia say they have found the body of LaToyia Figueroa, a 24-year-old pregnant woman who had been missing since last month. Police also announced they have arrested Figueroa's former boyfriend in connection with her death.

The Pentagon is getting its chance to defend a massive military downsizing plan. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission is holding hearings today in Washington. The Pentagon says its proposed base closures would save almost $50 billion over the next 20 years. But commission members say it's more like $14 billion.

Officials at Northwest Airlines say only a few flights have been canceled since union mechanics walked off the job over pay cuts and job security. The company is trying to operate on a normal schedule using replacement workers.

Among the stories coming up at 6:00 Eastern on CNN LIVE SATURDAY, we'll take a look at how the rise in gas prices is forcing some families to make tough decisions about spending.

And I'll be back with more headlines at the half hour. PEOPLE IN THE NEWS starts right now.


ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, he is the powerful new leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

RAYMOND ARROYO, NEWS DIRECTOR, ETERNAL WORLD TELEVISION NETWORK: He is controversial. The church is controversial. Christ is controversial.

ANNOUNCER: His election has divided many Catholics.

SISTER BRIDGETTE MARY MEEHAN, WOMEN-CHURCH CONVERGENCE: My heart was broken when I saw him appear on that balcony.

REV. JOSEPH FESSIO, PROVOST, AVE MARIA UNIVERSITY: He inspires a desire to be good, and to be holy, and serve the church.

ANNOUNCER: From surviving tyranny in Nazi Germany to becoming a cardinal known as God's Rottweiler. The life and faith of Pope Benedict XVI.

Then, his movie "The Passion of the Christ" stirred controversy and made millions at the box office. But after its success, is Hollywood born again?

PAUL LAUER, PRESIDENT, MOTIVE MARKETING: I think pre-"Passion," getting a faith-based film made was a little bit just short of walking on the water.

ANNOUNCER: A look at Mel Gibson and how he changed the way movie studios look at religion.

And later, personal stories of faith inside Hollywood.

KIRK CAMERON, ACTOR: You definitely feel the vibe from people in the industry that if you have a spiritual belief system, don't bring it into the marketplace.

ANNOUNCER: The struggle to balance religious beliefs with showbiz careers.

Now, from the pages of "People" magazine and the network for news, some of the most fascinating PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi. Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn.

Pope Benedict XVI returned home to Germany this week, his first visit since assuming the papacy. Pope Benedict is in Cologne to mark the Catholic World Youth Day celebrations. It's a real test for this new pope, especially when you consider the many challenges facing the Catholic Church.

As followers look to the future, we take an in-depth look at the life, controversies and faith of Pope Benedict XVI.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cardinale Ratzinger!


ZAHN (voice-over): Pope Benedict XVI. A man described as a reluctant heir to the papacy.

REV. JOHN JAY HUGHES, ARCHDIOCESE OF ST. LOUIS: He told the pilgrims just a few days after his election, when I saw the votes mounting for me in the conclave, and the guillotine about to fall, I said, "Lord, you have others, you have younger people, you have better people. Take one of them." ZAHN: As the Vatican's former watchdog over church doctrine, he earned a reputation as a cold enforcer, and a controversial figure. Conservatives hail him as a leader who will maintain the traditions of the church. Catholics hoping for reform are disappointed by his orthodox views.

ARROYO: I think this pope is prepared to lose a few people along the way, as he shores up and reinforces the church as a whole. I think what he wants to do is say, here's what the church teaches, very clearly. Come on home.

ZAHN: But the former Joseph Ratzinger is also described as a deeply spiritual and humble man, an accomplished theologian and author, who speaks eight languages and is known for his love of literature and classical music.

FESSIO: He's a man of great depth, but he's certainly a warm, gracious, gentle, wonderful sense of humor. Pretty much the opposite of what he was seen to be, or appeared to be.

ZAHN: Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger was born on Holy Saturday in 1927, in the small Bavarian village of Marktl am Inn. His parents, Mary and Joseph, were devout Catholics who had their son baptized with newly blessed Easter water.

The son of a policeman and a cook, Ratzinger's family life was centered on church life. The music of their faith filled their home. Joseph loved to play the piano and sing hymns.

JOHN ALLEN, BIOGRAPHER: Ratzinger was very close to his brother, very close to his sister, very devoted to his parents.

ZAHN: Surrounded by the Bavarian Alps, he spent summers hiking in the nearby Alpine meadows and forests with his brother George and sister Maria.

From a young age, Joseph was enchanted with the pageantry and rituals of the Catholic mass, developing a deep and lasting faith that would guide his life.

But the growing tyranny of the Nazi regime would begin to change his life. As Germany transformed into a police state, Joseph's father became an outspoken critic of Hitler. The family moved often, avoiding strongholds of the regime.

They eventually settled in Traunstein, Germany, a peaceful and picturesque town at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. Here, Joseph took his first steps toward a life in the church, joining his brother at St. Michael's Seminary in 1939.

But the peace and tranquility would end. In 1941, as war spread across Europe, 14-year-old Joseph Ratzinger was forced to join the Hitler Youth.

HUGHES: The war was, of course, a difficult time for him, because with his family, he was so opposed to the regime. ZAHN: The life he knew was suddenly gone. Joseph left home to join the paramilitary corps in Munich, where he served as a guard at a BMW plant, and witnessed firsthand the brutality of the Nazi regime.

At 17, he was released, returning home only to find a draft notice from the German army. Joseph was sent to work on tank blockades and trenches near the Austrian border.

As the war ended, he deserted his army post and reunited with his family. But the reunion was short-lived. American allies had established their headquarters at his family's home in Traunstein, and Joseph was quickly identified as a soldier.

HUGHES: He's the first pope to have been a former American prisoner of war, yet somehow he made his way back home. He said that the meal that his mother prepared for him from the modest garden was like a feast.

ZAHN: Following the war, Joseph and his brother George returned to the seminary, becoming ordained priests in 1951. Joseph would continue his studies, earning a doctorate at the University of Munich. The young priest was eager to share his passion for theology. Father John J. Hughes was a student of Ratzinger's at the University of Munster.

HUGHES: He used to ride around town on a bicycle, wearing a beret. After every one of those lectures that I heard from Joseph Ratzinger, you wanted to go into a church and pray. They were that inspiring.

ZAHN: Recognized by his peers as a brilliant and dedicated theologian, he was asked to serve as an adviser to the archbishop of Cologne during the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. It was here he met a man who would later change his life, Bishop Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II.

By 1968, Joseph Ratzinger was the dean of theology at the University of Tuebingen -- a popular professor, who supported the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, reforms that would create a more liberal church.

But in the late 1960s, a movement for social change and equality began to sweep across Europe. Violent protests broke out on university campuses. Authority figures were often targets.

HUGHES: Students could come, and break into his lecture, and shout him down, even curse Jesus Christ.

ZAHN: Joseph Ratzinger's viewpoint was about to change.

When our story continues, a conservative shift, and a controversial job at the Vatican.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: In the late 1960s, college campuses across Europe were in turmoil. Protests for social change and equality had become increasingly violent. Joseph Ratzinger, the dean of theology at the University of Tuebingen, was alarmed. He thought the growing Marxist views threatened to diminish the importance of the Catholic Church. The chaos he'd witnessed had a profound impact on him, and he gradually became more conservative in his political and religious views, and worried that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were being taken too far.

ARROYO: I think the world began to shift around him, and he was troubled by the direction he saw it going. He saw the inevitable direction of relativism, of these ideologies taken to an extreme. So he reverted to traditional Catholicism.

ZAHN: A prolific author and one of the top theologians in Germany, Joseph Ratzinger moved up quickly through the Catholic hierarchy, becoming archbishop of Munich in 1977. Later that year, he was elevated to cardinal by Pope Paul XI.

After just four years, he was chosen by Pope John Paul II to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, becoming the watchdog and enforcer of the church's doctrine. He took the job with one condition -- that he would be allowed to speak his mind on important issues. And he did. During his tenure, Ratzinger reined in Catholic liberals and suspended dissident theologians whose writings strayed from the orthodox teachings of the church.

ALLEN: It was Ratzinger's role to police the boundaries of acceptable thought. And obviously, for people who found themselves on the wrong side of those lines sometimes, you know, he could be a very difficult character.

ZAHN: He became a powerful conservative figure at the Vatican, and the pope's chief theological adviser. He also gained a reputation as a hard-line enforcer, earning the nickname God's Rottweiler.

In recent years, Ratzinger's political and religious views sparked controversy. He warned of the dangers of feminism and stated that homosexuality is an intrinsic moral evil. In 2000, he authored a document that outlined the primacy of the Catholic Church, and described other faiths as "deficient."

ARROYO: He is controversial. The church is controversial. Christ is controversial. He's telling the world, look, this is something counter-cultural. This is something that is outside of the norm. Yet this is what this church believes.

ZAHN: As a close confidante of Pope John Paul II for more than 20 years, it was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who led the mass at his funeral.

ALLEN: He was in many ways perhaps the pope's most trusted collaborator. And in the Catholic system, access to the pope, and a reputation for the pope having confidence in you and supporting you, that's an awful lot of political capital to be carrying around. ZAHN: As speculation grew during the Vatican's conclave to elect a new pope, Joseph Ratzinger's name rose to the top of the list of papal successors.

ARROYO: The turning point of this entire conclave was John Paul II's funeral. Those cardinals were listening to the young people out in that square, 4 million strong, and they said, we must continue this. We have to complete this papacy. Cardinal Ratzinger was the obvious candidate.

ZAHN: However, his election has divided many Catholics.

ALLEN: Among conservatives, who have for many years been admirers of Joseph Ratzinger, I think there has been an atmosphere of absolute elation. Among liberals or progressives, who would like to see the church become more democratic, more open, there is some despair, some demoralization.

MEEHAN: In my opinion, Pope Benedict was not the correct choice for pope. I must be very honest. My heart was broken when I saw him appear on that balcony, because I thought it was a slap in the face to women in the church, who believed in equality and partnership.

FESSIO: There's a little bit too much of a view that the papacy is sort of like the American presidency; we're going to change parties and have some real differences in executive orders and laws.

But a pope has to be a Catholic. And he is bound by scripture and by tradition. And, therefore, we don't expect the church's doctrines to change.

ZAHN: Benedict XVI takes over a Catholic Church that faces challenges -- a sex abuse scandal that has plagued the church, and declining congregations across Europe and the United States.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: If the faith is weakened and begins only to be a hypothesis, so it's not a fundament of your life, and so begins all these problems.

ZAHN: With all of the excitement surrounding his first major international appearance, some have sensed a change in the formerly shy theologian.

HUGHES: I think that it's already obvious in the few months since his election as pope that the papacy has been a certain liberation for Joseph Ratzinger. He's no longer required to be the watchdog of faith. His job now is to inspire faith.

ZAHN: Faith he has had since he was a child growing up in Germany. Faith in the future of a Catholic Church he now leads.

FESSIO: I believe he took the name Benedict because he saw Benedict as someone who came into a decaying superpower, the Roman Empire, and fled it, and turned to God, and by turning to God transformed the culture through prayer, putting God first. And so I think his legacy is going to be the spirit of St. Benedict, who tried to help us renew our spiritual life, our life of worship. And that if he succeeds in that, those seeds will bear fruit just like they did with St. Benedict. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Catholic Church leaders in Germany are hoping that Pope Benedict's visit will revive flagging support for the country's struggling parishes.


ANNOUNCER: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, why one of Hollywood's biggest stars put his faith on the screen, and his career on the line.

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: That's what art is, sort of throwing it all out there, I think. And if the fur's not flying, you ain't doing nothing.

ANNOUNCER: The passion that drives Mel Gibson, when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns.



ZAHN: If Mel Gibson has proved anything in Hollywood, it's that spiritual movies can be mega hits. "The Passion of the Christ" stormed the box office and cleared the way for revival of religious movies. But the question remains: Has Hollywood really found religion?


ZAHN (voice-over): Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," the blockbuster that brought the Bible back to theaters.

MARK PINSKY, RELIGION WRITER, ORLANDO SENTINEL: Mel Gibson is not the messiah, but he did make huge changes, I think, in the attitudes of Hollywood toward religious films.

ZAHN: A personal expression of faith that turned Hollywood on its head.

GIBSON: And that's what making art is about. It's about sort of throwing it all out there, I think. And if the fur's not flying, you ain't doing nothing.

ZAHN: Gibson's quest to make "The Passion" was rooted in his own religious convictions. As a young man, he considered joining the priesthood, and was raised as a conservative Catholic, out of the mainstream.

GIBSON: I probably sound like some egotist, you know, saying that the Roman Church is wrong, but I believe it is, at the moment, since Vatican II. JESS CAGLE, SR. EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Mel, in his life, has been heavily influenced by his father. His father was very unhappy with what he considered the modernization of the Catholic Church in the 1960s. So, Mel has now, after a few wild years, embraced the same kind of very, very conservative Catholicism that his father believed in.

ZAHN: In fact, Gibson has even built his own church in California, where mass is performed in traditional Latin, as it was before Vatican II.

LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: You don't like the new church, the mass in English, the...


KING: Why not?

GIBSON: It's missing some stuff.

KING: Like?

GIBSON: It's missing some very important things. I don't believe that transubstantiation occurs anymore. I mean, if there's not rules, if there's not an absolute, then it's not worth much.

ZAHN: Gibson has said he went through a spiritual crisis about 14 years ago. In an interview with the Roman Catholic network, Eternal World Television, he described how he turned to the story of Christ's crucifixion for help.

GIBSON: Like most of us, I mean, you get to a point in your life where you're pretty wounded by everything that goes on around you. By your own transgressions, by other people's -- you know, I mean, just life is a -- it's a kind of a scarring thing. So I used the passion as a meditation of healing myself.

ZAHN: But Gibson's decision to make a film of "The Passion" received a cold shoulder from Hollywood. Even with his Oscar-winning resume and box office clout of nearly $1 billion, studios were skeptical of a film about Jesus, that Gibson wanted to make in Latin and Aramaic.

MICHAEL FLAHERTY, PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER, WALDEN MEDIA: If you go back as recently as two years ago, Mel Gibson couldn't get anybody's attention on this. He couldn't get finance, he couldn't get distribution, and nobody ever assumed that the movie would, you know, make a single dime in the movie theaters.

GIBSON: OK, now, slowly raise it. Kind of -- perfect.

ZAHN: Gibson decided to finance the $30 million film himself.

TIM LAHAYE, CO-AUTHOR, "LEFT BEHIND": And he said then that he knew that he could lose $35 million of production costs of that movie. But he said -- and with passion, he put his fist on the table -- he said, I don't care if I lose every cent. This is something I have to do.

BARBARA NICOLOSI, FILM AND TELEVISION CONSULTANT: He was making something that profoundly reflected his own deepest beliefs. He was making a movie, I think, as an act of repentance, a sign of his own repentance to God. That's one of the things that gives "The Passion" its power, is that he actually believes this stuff.

ZAHN: But Gibson's beliefs would come under attack. Charges of anti-Semitism were leveled against the film, which Gibson strongly denied.

GIBSON: I don't want to lynch any Jews. I mean, it's like -- it's not what I'm about. I love them. I pray for them. I pray sincerely that every man, woman and child of the Jewish people ends up with his name written in the Book of Life.

ZAHN: That same controversy helped make "The Passion" a must-see event.

LAUER: There was like this outbreak of fire, this incredible energy and controversy, and the smoke went up, and everybody wanted to know what was going on.

ZAHN: The result? A film which has grossed more than $600 million worldwide, and left Gibson thankful to his public.

GIBSON: Because I circumvented the system in a sense, their participation and their support was extremely necessary. I'm very aware of that. Millions of people got behind it, and made it what it was.

ZAHN: When we come back, has Mel Gibson convinced Hollywood to find religion once again?

BISHOP T.D. JAKES: I think that "The Passion of the Christ" made Hollywood to begin to recognize that America is affected by spirituality -- every idiom of our culture, from art to novels, to politics.



MALVEAUX: I'm Suzanne Malveaux. PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues in a moment, but first, here's what's happening "Now in the News".

Authorities in Philadelphia say they have found the body of LaToyia Figueroa, a 24-year-old pregnant woman who had been missing since last month. Police also announced they have arrested Figueroa's former boyfriend in connection with her death.

Pope Benedict today told Muslim leaders it will be difficult but not impossible to defeat terrorism. He's on a trip to his native Germany. Yesterday, the pontiff told Jewish leaders he sees renewed signs of anti-Semitism. The pope is calling for mutual respect among religions. The Spanish government held a state funeral today for the 17 soldiers killed in Tuesday's helicopter crash in Afghanistan. About 800 Spanish troops are serving in Afghanistan. The crash represents NATO's largest single loss of life in that country.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has invited President Bush to visit Libya, according to a U.S. senator. Indiana Republican Richard Lugar met with Gadhafi during a two-day trip to that country. Lugar is the most high-profile U.S. visitor to Libya since Gadhafi took responsibility for the 1988 Pan Am bombing, and vowed to give up weapons of mass destruction.

Thirty minutes from now, on CNN LIVE SATURDAY, inside the mind of Scott Peterson. New information about Peterson's past, and clues that pointed to a future tragedy.

More headlines in half an hour. Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS


ZAHN (voice-over): January 2005. Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" takes home the People's Choice Award for favorite drama.

GIBSON: Because one doesn't make work for an elite. And I think that the people have spoken. And that, to me, is all I want to do, is just get my message out there. And, you know, I'm pleased as punch.

ZAHN: But what lessons has Hollywood learned from "The Passion?" It may be difficult to tell, because in many ways, "The Passion" was a fluke.

LEAH ROZEN, FILM CRITIC, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: You had a major movie star, Mel Gibson, making this movie that was sort of obsessional with him, and you had all that controversy. So it kind of -- all these things collided in this perfect publicity storm, making it a movie that people felt they must see. And it's unlikely you can duplicate that.

ZAHN: One thing Gibson may have taught Hollywood is that it was overlooking an audience.

CAGLE: The real fallout of "The Passion of the Christ" is that Hollywood is more aware than ever of this very, very profitable, or potentially profitable audience of conservative Christians out there.

BILL ANDERSON, PRESIDENT, CHRISTIAN BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION: Christians have a great need for entertainment. We are not absolved of that human desire for entertainment and escape.

So there have been some attempts at filling that void. But the void is bigger than the inventory of selection.

ZAHN: When marketing "The Passion," Gibson made the unorthodox decision to appeal directly to that audience. Before the film was released, he showed it to hand-picked church groups across the country, most notably evangelical Christians. LAUER: We went out and we had a personal contact, one-on-one. And we showed the film, and we established a trust factor. And then those people became the transmitters to all of the people around them.

ZAHN: But there's debate over whether those same people will line up at the box office again for any future religious movies.

NICOLOSI: Christians don't tend to vote as a block on either television or movies. "The Passion" was an unbelievable exception. The Christian church got together and said, go to this movie. And that's something that never happens. And it's not going to happen again.

LAUER: This faith and family market is enormous. It just flexed its muscle. It wants more. It's hungry. How do we serve it? That should be what they're saying. And I think many are.

ZAHN: While Gibson's vision of "The Passion" was controversial, the quality of his filmmaking was rarely questioned. For religious films going forward, made inside or outside Hollywood, the bar has been raised.

JONATHAN BOCK, PRESIDENT, GRACE HILL MEDIA: So much of what is made for this audience, for religious Americans, is propaganda first and good art second. And this film reversed that order.

PINSKY: If you want a movie to succeed that reaches Christians, that reaches beyond Christians and evangelical Christians, it better be good. It better be able to stand up in the marketplace, because we live in a very competitive environment when it comes to popular culture.

ZAHN: Hollywood does have a long history of making Biblical films -- most notably a string of big-budget spectaculars in the 1950s and '60s.

CHARLTON HESTON, ACTOR: Behold his mighty hand!

MICHAEL MEDVED, FILM CRITIC: "Ten Commandments" is one of the most successful movies ever made. And it was one of six movies within 10 years that were number one at the box office that were Biblical stories.

ZAHN: But in the mid-'60s, the culture changed; films changed as well. Movies such as "Bonnie and Clyde..."

DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ACTOR: I'm walking here!

ZAHN: "Midnight Cowboy" and "The Godfather" pushed boundaries, and helped pushed religious films out of fashion.

MEDVED: All of a sudden, it was OK to use the "f" word. All of a sudden, it was OK to show nudity. All of a sudden, it was OK to show graphic violence.

ZAHN: But has Mel Gibson made religion an option again in Hollywood? At the very least, it seems to have opened some eyes.

LAUER: There's an increasing supply of people inside of Hollywood who are now saying, hey, you know, I got that little faith-oriented thing or values-oriented thing that I've kind of had on the back shelf. Maybe now's a good time to pull that out and see if we can get that out there. NICOLOSI: I would say Hollywood is definitely more open to spirituality right now than I've ever seen it in my time out here. How long it's going to last, I don't know. But I think the culture in general is open to spirituality.

ZAHN: However, not everyone sees the film industry changing its ways.

MEDVED: And a lot of people in the entertainment industry are terribly afraid that the evangelicals are coming, all these hordes with their pitchforks and their flaming crosses, and they're going to storm the castle of popular culture and they're taking over America.

ROZEN: At a highly cynical level, your primary movie-goer audience is basically 14- to 25-year-old men. What they want to see in a movie is action, stuff blowing up, and women with large breasts. So, if you can do that -- now, admittedly, all those elements are in Bible stories, but it's just a little hard to do them in a completely racy way.

ZAHN: Still, a film which took in more than $600 million worldwide is hard to argue with.

CRAIG DETWEILER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, BIOLA UNIVERSITY: Bottom line is, whatever is the newest hit, they will tend to duplicate. Hollywood will always follow success with a chance to try to duplicate that success. That's just good business.


ZAHN: There are a number of upcoming films with spiritual overtones, including "The Chronicles of Narnia," the much beloved fantasy series from C.S. Lewis is steeped in religion, with its hero a symbol for Jesus Christ.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, the producer behind "X-Men," and a former teen heartthrob. Their personal stories of faith.

CAMERON: There are certain things that I will not do in the name of art, or for the sake of my job, because I love my God.

ANNOUNCER: Can Christians follow their faith and still find fame in Hollywood?



ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. In Hollywood, where many worship at the altars of beauty, power, fame and money, how do people of faith keep their faith? Well, we asked two devout Christians, two showbiz veterans how they've managed to stay faithful to their beliefs and their careers. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): You know him best from the '80s sitcom, "Growing Pains." Kirk Cameron, who played the smart-alecky Mike Seaver, the charming but trouble-making son in the family comedy.

CAMERON: I'm supposed to sleep on the floor? No way.

ZAHN: The show's successful seven-year run made Cameron a Hollywood heartthrob. But it wasn't his first Hollywood role. The actor literally grew up in show business. Raised in Southern California, his mother Barbara was a talent manager. Young sister Candace was also an actor, best known for her role as D.J. on the comedy series "Full House."

"Growing Pains" soon became a hit and launched Kirk's career. By age 17, he was rich, famous, and successful.

CAMERON: For years, I was the center of my own universe. I'm my ultimate authority. I mean, that's sort of the ultimate accomplishment is when you can say, I don't depend on anyone. I am intellectually and emotionally independent.

ZAHN: He had everything he could possibly want, including a beautiful girlfriend Chelsea, who would later become his wife. But the course of his life was about to change.

CAMERON: My folks didn't take me to church, didn't believe in God. And when I was about 17 or 18 years old is when I really got thinking about the fact that atheism will not hold any water if I die and stand before God one day and say, oh, I guess I was wrong. And I began to get very curious about spiritual things, and began reading the Bible, talking to people that I respect and trust, and ultimately trusted that if God was there, he would lead and guide me to him if I was willing to be open and honest and seek him with all of my heart.

ZAHN: The one-time atheist embraced his new faith, but says he soon felt talking about faith in Hollywood was off-limits.

CAMERON: You definitely feel the vibe from people in the industry that if you have a spiritual belief system, don't bring it into the marketplace. Don't bring it into this meeting. Keep it to yourself. It's a very taboo sort of subject.

CAGLE: I think if anybody is very vocal about their very personal beliefs, whether you're very vocal about your evangelical Christianity, or whether you're very vocal about your homosexuality, or whether you're very vocal about, you know, your Buddhist leanings, I think that it makes people nervous. ZAHN: Cameron says he began looking for opportunities inside Hollywood that reflected his beliefs, but it wasn't easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck, everybody.

CAMERON: I think it's hard and challenging for anyone to work in Hollywood, because there's so much competition. Whether you're an actor, director or writer, everybody wants to be a star. If you have a set of values or convictions that narrow the scope of the projects that you want to work on -- i.e., you have a value system that says, I'll do these kinds of projects, but these others I'm not so interested in -- then it's going to be even harder.

ZAHN: The young actor says he turned down roles that featured adult situations and profanity, even though he knew it could hurt his career.

CAMERON: If moral values and principles of integrity are your priority, does that sometime rub or cut down the opportunity for fame and glory? Absolutely. Yes. And there are certain things that I will not do in the name of art or for the sake of my job, because I love my God, and I want my life to be an expression of my gratitude for what he's given me.

It's kind of hard for me, too.

ZAHN: Throughout the '90s, Cameron sought out projects with wholesome appeal, starring in a series of Disney specials, and in his own WB television comedy, "Kirk."

CAMERON: I've got kids now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just put them in front of a Nintendo, they'll never know you're gone.


ZAHN: Now 34, Cameron hasn't had any recent roles in mainstream Hollywood, aside from a couple of "Growing Pains" reunions.

CAMERON: She's unproduceable! I cannot work like this.

ZAHN: But he says he's found happiness working outside of Hollywood. He plays the lead role in the film adaptations of the best- selling Christian book series "Left Behind."


ZAHN: While he may not be working on a big Hollywood blockbuster, the actor claims his faith hasn't hurt his career.

CAMERON: You might hear people within the industry say that if you have strong spiritual convictions, it's very hard to get a job. Well, I'm an actor who happens to be a Christian, and I've had a wonderful career. ZAHN: He's also ventured beyond acting. He's teaching other evangelical Christians how to go out and spread their faith as host of the Christian reality series "Way of the Master."

CAMERON: We should truly love God's word and read it every day, and we should share our faith with those who are lost.

CAGLE: Kirk Cameron is actually very smart to talk about his life as a born-again Christian, because he works in that arena. So more than anything, it's helped him.

CAMERON: For me, I want to do things that I'm proud of, things that represent who I am and projects that are -- that have integrity. My eyes are on Jesus Christ, who he is and what he stood for. And if I keep my eyes there, then I have high hopes of being a true Christian myself.

ZAHN: But while Cameron looks for faith projects outside of Hollywood, other Christians are finding success inside Hollywood.

When we come back, he hit it big with a series of action films. But how does the producer behind "The X-Men" deal with his faith on and off the set?


BRIAN COX, ACTOR: We've managed to gather evidence on a mutant training facility in upstate New York.

ZAHN: In "X-Men II," Hollywood unleashed a big-budget, action- packed science fiction thriller -- a story that follows a band of outcast mutants, who battle prejudice and struggle against a world that fears them.

But beyond the action scenes lie hidden themes of humanity and faith.

One of the producers of the film, a devout Christian.

RALPH WINTER, HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER: Faith is not something people leave at home on the set. I mean, I -- I've met a lot of different Christians and people of different faiths on sets that I work on.

ZAHN: For more than 30 years, producer Ralph Winter has worked in Hollywood, producing films from "Star Trek" to the hit "X-Men" series.

Raised in Southern California, Winter embraced his faith from a young age.

WINTER: I became a Christian when I was in elementary school. What we believe as Christians is that God loves us, and so my response is to love other people back, and to serve.

ZAHN: Winter majored in history at the University of California at Berkeley. Hollywood was the last thing on his mind. WINTER: I sort of fell into this. I was making industrial videos at a department store. I started in post-production in Paramount, and then gradually saw opportunities.

ZAHN: Opportunities that included working on hit television shows "Happy Days" and "Taxi."

DANNY DEVITO, ACTOR: You've found the 2,000 books I've been looking for!

ZAHN: Which grew into a producer role on a series of "Star Trek" films.

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: We'll make arrangements to have you beamed aboard at 19:30 hours.

ZAHN: But off-set, Winter struggled with managing faith, work and family.

WINTER: I'm not sure that I've always had faith and work in balance. I've had to learn that along the way.

ZAHN: Throughout his career, Winter grappled with some difficult choices. At one point, he was offered the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to work on a James Bond film.

DESMOND LLEWELYN, ACTOR: All the usual refinements...

ZAHN: An opportunity he would walk away from.

WINTER: It was hard to be out of work for six months because of a choice that I had made that I will not travel outside of Los Angeles while my kids are still in school. And that hurt, and ran all the accounts down to zero.

ZAHN: The sacrifice would eventually pay off. Instead of James Bond, Winter got a job producing for director Steven Spielberg on the TV series "High Incident."


WINTER: Working with Steven catapulted my career in a way that taking that other job in England never would have. And I don't know that God answers all of my prayers in that way, but that was definitely a period of learning to trust and be patient, and see what life's about.

ZAHN: As a Christian working inside Hollywood, Winter says finding projects that reflect his beliefs can be challenging.

WINTER: My faith has been a big part of how I make choices. I feel good about the choices I've made. I don't think I've lost a job because someone found out that I'm a Christian.

ZAHN: Winter has sought out projects that enhance his faith, producing the first "Left Behind" movie, based on the best-selling Christian book series, and films where themes of faith are more subtle.

WINTER: I'm actually very proud of "X-Men II." Bryan Singer chose to include a character called Nightcrawler, who on the outside is all blue, looks like the devil, but is a person of faith, quotes scripture, prays when he's in trouble, and is not made fun of by his fellow characters. And I think that's an inspiration to a lot of other Christians.

ALAN CUMMING, ACTOR: (INAUDIBLE) on Earth as it is in heaven.

ZAHN: But in a town that worships money, power and fame, surviving the culture of Hollywood is not easy.

NICOLOSI: When people of faith come to Hollywood, three things happen to them. And one is that after they do achieve some success, they leave. Because they figure out that no amount of money is worth putting up with what it takes to get a project made in the normal way.

Then the next group, I think, change, and they go into the closet. And it's like, well, my faith is my own little secret. And maybe God isn't even going to know, because I can't trust that he won't tell my agent.

And if you're going to make it in Hollywood as a Christian, and as a happy one, you have to be aware that everything you believe is going to be, you know, weird here.

WINTER: The only way I survive as a person of faith in Hollywood is by having, you know, a community and friends and others around who are supportive. That little community of faith, of support and encouragement and admonishment is something to sort of keep your head on straight, and be sure you know where true north is.

ZAHN: Winter says he will continue producing in Hollywood, telling stories that inspire and explore faith.

WINTER: Isn't that what Jesus did in the gospels anyway, is tell great stories? Very few of them about the church, or about God, but stories that ask incredible questions that work inside of you, and, you know, make you seek after what the answer is.


ZAHN: Producer Ralph Winter is now working on the third installment of the "X-Men" series.

That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, the royal controversies that have plagued Britain's House of Windsor.

I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us. Hope you'll be back with us next week.


CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines