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©AP/ Rick Santorum
© AP/ Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum steps out in new role as movie mogul
By JOCELYN NOVECK , AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rick Santorum was glad-handing a friendly crowd at a cocktail reception the other night, seeking support just as he did for many grueling months on the 2012 campaign trail for the Republican presidential nomination.

But this time he wasn't looking to get on a ticket -- well, not yet, anyway -- but rather, to sell tickets. Movie tickets.

Many might not know that Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and darling of America's social conservatives, is now a movie mogul. In June, he became CEO of EchoLight Studios, a Dallas-based Christian film company that produces and distributes what it calls faith-based family films. In the past few weeks he's been promoting his first theatrical release since taking over; Aptly, given the season, it's a Christmas film.

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"The Christmas Candle," which features Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle in a minor speaking role, is about a minister in a small 19th-century English town, at odds with his congregation's belief in a blessed, miracle-producing candle.

Based on the book by Max Lucado, it opened Friday in more than 300 cities across the country -- none too soon, says Santorum, who believes Hollywood has fallen down when it comes to Christmas films.

"Name a Christmas movie produced by Hollywood that has anything to do with Christmas," Santorum said at a recent Manhattan screening of his film. "Not elves and Santa Claus and reindeer and 'The Polar Express' -- some of these are very good movies, uplifting, wonderful, but none of them mention what Christmas is about! None of them mention the birth of Jesus Christ. That is remarkable."

It's also one of the reasons he got into the movie business, he says, capitalizing on his newfound visibility after the 2012 campaign. Santorum quit the race in April of that year, ceding to eventual nominee Mitt Romney, but his surprising performance in the hard-fought primaries left him, at least for the moment, as a prominent social conservative voice.

"After the campaign, I had this newfound gift: fame," he said. "People knew who I was, all across the country. And I thought, well, how could I take this gift and help God and country?" A supporter from Texas brought him in, he says, and he soon became chairman of the board, then ultimately CEO.

Santorum says he's a big movie fan. (Asked what his favorites are -- besides "The Christmas Candle," of course -- he mentions "It's A Wonderful Life" and says he also plans to see the "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." But there's a lot about current fare he doesn't like.

"Look, violence for the sake of violence is not a good thing," he said. "Sex for the sake of sex is not a good thing. That doesn't mean there can't be sex or violence or language in a movie if it's put in the context of what it is and the effect of it, the consequence of it. But if it's just gratuitous, that's another thing."

At the Manhattan screening, Santorum shook the hands of filmgoers and chatted about the film. Though the invited guests were upbeat, critics have been mixed.

The Tulsa World called the film "stiff when it needs to be alive, colorless when it needs to be shiny." The Washington Post, on the other hand, said that "in spite of hammy histrionics requisite for the genre, it is not at all a turkey." The Hollywood Reporter noted its "positive message," but also its "hopelessly stodgy execution." It also called Boyle "hopelessly stiff."

EchoLight is distributing the film in the United States, but did not produce it. Santorum says he and EchoLight did suggest several changes, some of which made it in, but not all. There's a moment toward the end that personally irked him, he said, but his artistic opinion on that point did not win the day.

Santorum says his studio is now working on several new movies, with three scripts in development. Some will make it to theaters, others will go straight to DVD or to television. As for his own tenure, he can't say how long it'll be, and that's partly because he hasn't ruled out the possibility that he'll be on the campaign trail again sometime soon. He offered a quick "Sure!" when asked if he's open to running again.

A lot will depend on personal factors, he said. "You put a wife and seven children through a run for president  particularly the run I made, which was a lot of grass-roots knocking on doors  and the time away from your family is pretty taxing. And there's the financial aspect of it. I've got seven kids, three in college, three more on the way, so it's a big financial commitment to do that for me, because running for president doesn't pay."

He does seem to have strong opinions on other potential GOP nominees. Without naming names (though the question was about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) Santorum said: "We need someone who's an authentic conservative."

As for his own future, he says, "We'll see where we are a year from now. But in the meantime, I am all in with this (movie-making) and we'll see how it goes."

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Nov 22, 2013 2:08PM

Why doesn't he make a movie about the time he brought the dead fetus home, played with it, slept with it and showed his kids their dead brother.  Don't believe me?  Google it.  That's the tea party for you.

Nov 22, 2013 2:06PM
God help us from a religious fanatic making movies.  When are they doing the one about the inquisition (oops monty python did it already and Mel Brooks did the bible already)  The governor of Virginia already did the black comedy version of "Abortion".  The problem with Rick Santorum is that he has a fervent belief in a religion which very few people accept.  If you want and movie for Christmas do what the other poster said.  Go out and buy a copy of "It's a Wonderful Life" and while you are at it sit down with the wife and kids and read Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" out loud to drown out the Tea Party, The Koch Brothers (Henry F Potter X 2) and all the executives who are making their employees work on Thanksgiving.  I think you got the idea now.  And on Christmas eve go to church, get up on your hind legs and ask your fellow congregants how they could possibly vote for politicians who would let their fellow citizens starve or go without medical care so that the Walton family could accumulate an even larger fortune.  Ask  them how they could vote for politicians who think it is somehow clever to sadistically make a culture war (a jihad if you don't yet understand) on the 50% of their fellow citizens who are female. Yes, Rick I am sure you will get a star on that Hollywood Street for pushing a load of irreligious clap trap on the unsuspecting.
Nov 22, 2013 2:15PM
The problem with Rick Santorum is that he is not really a religious man.  His belief in god is largely a political act.  Anyway this should be amusing.
Nov 22, 2013 2:12PM
I just googled his name, from the results he is obviously involved in the porn film industry.
Nov 22, 2013 12:55PM
I love a good Christmas Movie. My wife, our 2 sons and me watch "It's a Wonderful Life" together every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
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