Stephen Baldwin Explains RestoreStephenBaldwin.org
By Mike Hess Posted Apr 30th 2010 11:20AM
Exclusive: By now, there's a chance you've heard of or seen RestoreStephenBaldwin.org, a Web site aimed at raising money for the financially-struggling, born-again Christian actor. The site praises Baldwin's religious endeavors as the reason that people should donate money, which will then be given to the bankrupt actor -- who the site claims has been persecuted by Hollywood and the media for his religious views. The "privately funded and managed" site says it has no ties to Baldwin himself, and says its "vision is to see Stephen Baldwin publicly restored in front of millions ... to reach even more people with the Gospel."
So, is it for real, and is Mr. Baldwin involved at any level in the site asking for donations to "restore" him? In the only interview Stephen is giving on the matter, he spoke exclusively with PopEater to clarify exactly what his involvement in the site is (very little) and whether or not he plans on accepting money from them. "I'm not looking at it like it's some business deal for me. I'm not involved, I don't want to be involved ... It's a charitable situation and whatever God's going to do, God's going to do. If it turns out to be something that blesses me in a great way financially, then Amen," Baldwin tells PopEater.
Right off the top, let's clarify: Do you own, control or have anything to do with RestoreStephenBaldwin.org?
No, other than my being aware of its creation, which came through the president of a ministry that I started. People contacted the president of my ministry and said, "We have this vision for an idea that could be big and very cool, and we want to run it by you guys."
So you gave them permission to use your likeness, but it wasn't your idea?
Yes. I get people approaching me, whether it's in my movie career or whatever, with business ventures and all kinds of things. My understanding initially of what the vision of this idea ... I said, "Sure you guys run with that and let's just see if anything positive can come with it."
The primary goal of the site is to raise money to help you out financially. Have you received any money or compensation from it? Would you accept if they offered?
Yeah, I would accept it, but I want to just clarify. What's interesting is the initial motivation was this vision to see if Christians and people of that faith might agree with an idea and the vision that he had, and the larger vision is this thing called 'All Who Knew Him.' I'm just somebody that agreed to be the first recipient of that vision. I'll be honest with you, I wasn't sure whether or not this thing was going to get any attention or have any awareness. I don't even know how long it's been out there, but it sat around for a while initially. As the result of one blogger writing something pretty nasty, that's what kind of became the catalyst for the awareness that we see now. Interestingly enough, I don't have any numbers, but a significant response in regards to donations has been triggered as a result of that. So, in other words, somebody wrote something mean, and Christians said, "Whoa, wait a second, maybe that isn't such a bad idea."
The donations that the site gets, they're meant to go to you directly, or to their cause?
Initially, the donations are set up in some automatic scenario where the funds go into an account that I don't control. There's an account that automatically receives the funds, and then at some point, whenever it's decided, they'll be turned over to me. The motivation again, from this dude who started it all, he felt like because people were making very negative statements in regard to the Christian faith as a result of my personal situation -- it's already been made public that I had to file for bankruptcy. The simple explanation for that is when you're living one particular way in a certain income bracket, not only as a result of what's been happening in the economy and sub-prime blah blah blah, that along with my consciously deciding there were roles that I had been doing pretty regularly that would allow me to make X amount of dollars per year. Well, as a result of my decision that I made as my born-again Christian faith -- again, I take full responsibility of that. I'm a big boy and I made that choice. I made the choice to no longer participate in playing those roles in the past, it affected my income. I was easily making a million and a half to two million bucks a year and living pretty dang good. So again, if I was willing to play roles in the past where the content allowed for me to use certain bad language or participate in scenes that had certain sexual content -- I'm feeling like I just don't want to play those roles anymore. Here's the interesting part: It's not only because of the decision I've made in my faith, but whether or not I became a born-again Christian, I was at a place in my life where I've been there and done that. It's been a very interesting synergy -- it all came together in a timely fashion that was interesting to me personally. That being said, and equally, I think the responsibility or the impact of where I've arrived now was not only because of that decision, but because of what's happening in the economy. There's all kinds of different people from all different walks of life and income brackets and occupations ... you and I could list other celebrities who have been having tough financial times. I think the motivation for this vision, called 'All Who Knew Him,' and the launch of that being RestoreStephenBaldwin.org, this guy was saying, "Hey, if you're a Christian and person of faith, there are people doubting whether or not the God of Stephen's faith had abandoned him, and here's a way we can step up and say, 'This is our expression of wanting to counteract that.'"
The other interesting thing is, at some point, this is going to transition and then become a situation that makes itself available to other individuals who have gone through their setbacks as a result of standing up to their faith. Recently, there was a story in the news where four or five nurses at some hospital in the United States who were reprimanded because they refused to participate in an abortion. Hypothetically, if they lost their jobs or suffered financial risks, this fund could come along and be supporting of them, because for their faith-based reasons, they chose not to do the thing their job asked them to do... this fund could be something that benefits them.
So you're just the face to kick off the campaign, and ultimately it will be a larger mission?
Exactly. That's the vision and the hope. In a time right now in this country where everything is so polarized and you have so many people from all perspectives -- so many people questioning President Obama and why he ... spoke at some military place and had any of the Christian references in the room covered up. It's just such a funky time between the left and the right, and the country is so divided that it's fascinating to me that somebody could go and start a Web site and say, "Here's someone we want to show some support to because we believe in a decision he's made in his faith. We want to support him financially." And the reaction has just been wild with people who don't support that and feel as though I'm not worthy of that.
You mentioned that you haven't received any money yet, and that you'd be open to it. Do you know when you might?
The thing is, until I know for sure that it's something that would be positive, potentially, in its opportunity and vision in the future... if it's something people could really get behind and do something positive to help not only me, but others. I welcome the support, and I've got to be honest with you, on a personal level, I welcome the support more in a way of other people of my faith saying, "We support you being as bold and outspoken about what you believe." I receive that support more than any dollar amount. But the truth is, I do have a personal financial situation. Look, here's the thing that's so funny, call me crazy, but if enough money came through this opportunity to clear my debt, I'd be stupid not to do it.
This is an important point; I want people to understand why I'm open to this. I'm not suggesting anyone take donations or their charitable giving they'd be allocating for something else and give it to me. This is a thing the dude who started it wanted people to do in addition to their normal charitable giving.
What's your take on the reaction that the site has gotten?
On a personal level, I've had communication with people within the work I do in the Christian community, even some of them have come back and had negative opinions about this situation. To that, I'm intrigued. For now, I believe that there is an opportunity and there is the possibility for a movement to begin for Christians to start to stand up and want to be more bold and have more of a voice and be willing to stand up for what they believe in. I don't mean send your donations to Stephen Baldwin. I mean it's interesting because I've lent my name to this thing, it's become this controversial, interesting idea that is really ... there's a lot of Christians who have come out in support of this thing that is probably outside their normal comfort zone. To that, I'm excited and grateful.
On the other side of it, it's become this thing that's kind of shown me really who some of my friends are. Interestingly enough, when it comes to the subject of money, people get really weird.
Some of the criticism I've seen of the site is that you made the conscious decision to stop doing roles that made you big money, so why should the public have to support you. There were others that mentioned your brother, Alec, and why doesn't he just give you the money.
Like anything else, if you're not walking in that person's shoes, you don't know all of the personal details about who they are and how they arrived to their situation. My family, who have been incredibly supportive of the decision I've made in regard to my faith, I don't feel like it's anybody else's responsibility but my own. The goofy part in all of this is when any American files for bankruptcy, it's enacting a law that everyone has the right to do. There are details of how I arrived in my current financial situation that any human with common sense would understand. I take full responsibility for the bad choices I made nine or ten years ago that led to a domino effect financially. The truth be told, I'm in a scenario right now that things are moving in a positive direction to correct my personal financial situation -- as an actor, I have things in development, my production company -- all kinds of stuff on the horizon. When I go through this process and come out on the other side of it, like thousands of other businessmen who have gone through bankruptcy and come out of it making more money than before, it's, "How do I salvage what I've acquired thus far and turn it into something positive so I can make the best of it for the future."
So say this site generates tons of money and donations. Where do you say, 'OK, I'm not taking any more donations, but help these other people'?
Again, I have no control over any of it. I'm not looking at it like it's some business deal for me. I'm not involved, I don't want to be involved... it's a charitable situation and whatever God's going to do, God's going to do. If it turns out to be something that blesses me in a great way financially, then amen. I can tell you right now: If $20 to $50 million came in from the launch of this idea -- the idea being this 'All Who Knew Him' vision -- I think that would be a great opportunity to use those funds to do more and more charitable work. It could become something that once people go to the Web site and understand its true motivation is, I think the sky is the limit and that would be awesome. But the key there is that people need to go to the Web site and understand its true motivation. So many people are reacting to it without really understanding it.
Do you think it's unfair that people are reacting that way, given how many other celebrities lend their name to charitable organizations all the time?
Look, I'm in Los Angeles right now. I just had lunch with one of the biggest agents in Hollywood, who is considering working with me, and it was all about business. He sat me down and said, "Let me get to know you. Who are you, what do you stand for and what do you look to do?" I just had a two hour meeting with the guy and his reaction is the usual reaction I get from people, particularly in the film business who don't know me. They usually have an automatic reaction to any individual who publicly makes the statement: "I'm a born-again Christian."
Let me be very honest. I don't want to paint some picture of myself where I'm a normal born-again Christian. I'm Stephen Baldwin. I'm opinionated, I'm a bold personality, I know how to light a fuse and cause trouble here and there if I want to, and I've publicly made statements in regard to my faith and conservative point of view that people aren't going to agree with. And God bless America that we have the freedom to do that. I think what's really cool is that I'm at a place now in my faith -- almost nine years into this journey -- I've learned I don't have to be so evangelistic, so to speak, in my personal life. It doesn't necessarily mean I won't continue doing ministry work and participating in opportunities that are involved with an evangelistic motivation ... I'm really at a cool place where I'm mellowing out about this experience. I'm in talks for movies with budgets upwards of $50 million dollars. I'm excited to be getting back into pursuing my entertainment business stuff in a much more serious way and realizing that as I pursue taking on bigger and better roles. I've been asked to direct three films in the next year -- as I continue to focus more on those projects, I'll still have the ability to stand up for what I believe in.
Will they be faith-based projects, like Kirk Cameron has done, or more mainstream entertainment?
It's 50/50. There's mainstream screenplays I've written that would have some faith-based symbolism. Then there's a whole slate of stuff that's just straight-on pure entertainment. There's a British gangster film that I'm writing that I have the funding to produce. At the same time, it's going to be a project that wouldn't necessarily have all of the bad language you hear in all of these films. I'm curious to see if I can make a version of a 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' and have it be just as entertaining and successful without so much of the elements that would make it receive a rating that would limit the viewing audience.
Stephen Baldwin Snapshots
Stephen Baldwin is seen here in January sporting a shirt that reflects his faith, which has led to a site asking for Christians to help him out of his bankruptcy. See More Stephen Baldwin Photos >>>
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