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‘Ordinary Angels’ Stars Hilary Swank and Alan Ritchson Reveal How They Brought The Inspiring True Story To Life (VIDEO)

Watch the powerful new film in theaters February 22nd!

If you’re a fan of heartwarming real stories, then the new movie Ordinary Angels is sure to set your spirit soaring. Starring Hilary Swank, Alan Ritchson and Nancy Travis, the film chronicles the true-life story of Ed Schmitt, a grieving widower who is about to lose his young daughter to a life-threatening illness.

He’s barely hanging on emotionally, spiritually and financially when a local hairdresser makes it her mission to help the family and rallies their Kentucky community to join her efforts. The film hits theaters this Thursday, February 22nd.

“When it came to me, I just felt like it was an amazing reminder of what it’s like when community comes together,” Ordinary Angels movie director Jon Gunn told Woman’s World. “We live in very divided times, and it feels like we’re constantly being bombarded with messages of how we don’t get along, and how we’re all enemies to each other. But, I think the opposite is true. I think most people want to love their neighbors and communities. So this movie was a great reminder of a very true story where one person made a difference in another person’s life just by showing up. I was very drawn to that message and wanted to share that globally.”

Gunn also shares that the filmmakers were very intentional in spotlighting awareness of organ donation and raising money to assist with medical debt.

“There were a lot of issues that we wanted to bring awareness to,” Gunn says. “First, just acts of kindness. But, this movie also deals with organ donation, and everybody involved feels very passionate about that. Donate Life is a partner we’re working with bringing a lot of awareness to. One person can change dozens of lives with organ donations.”

Hilary Swank drew inspiration from her own life struggles

In the Ordinary Angels movie, little Michelle Schmitt, played by Emily Mitchell, needs a liver transplant to survive. The community rallies around during an unprecedented snowstorm in Louisville, KY to help get Michelle to the hospital when a liver finally becomes available to save her life. The challenges in the story were relatable to Swank.

She took three years off from her acting career to care for her ailing father, Stephen Swank, who underwent a lung transplant. He passed away in October 2021.

Hilary Swank (left) with Emily Mitchell (center) and Jon Gunn (right) at the Ordinary Angels Premiere
Hilary Swank (left) with Emily Mitchell (center) and Jon Gunn (right) at the Ordinary Angels premiereGetty/Michael Loccisano

In Ordinary Angels, Swank portrays Sharon, a flawed but lovable woman, who co-owns a hair salon. She learns about the family’s plight and vows to help. Did the two-time Academy Award winner take the role of Sharon because of her experience with her dad?

“Oh yeah! 100%, that was one of the large reasons for sure,” she told Woman’s World in a Zoom interview, “but it was also a movie that my dad would have absolutely loved. Hands down, this would have been his favorite film of mine. So doing it just made me feel like he was just right there with me — as my angel — as I was filming because we filmed it five months after he passed. He is a Christian and all the messages in the movie are things that he lived and expressed because that’s who he was.”

Hilary Swank and her father Stephen Michael Swank in 2018
Hilary Swank with her father Stephen Michael Swank in 2018Getty/Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Ordinary Angels movie lights a spark in cast to do more good

Alan Ritchson, star of Reacher on Amazon Prime Video, plays the films main character, Ed Schmitt. “I’m so inspired by this film, I think I’m going to go be an organ donor after this. I’ll start with a spleen or something simple,” Ritchson told WW with a grin before Hilary sweetly explained that’s not how organ donation works.

Turning serious, Ritchson continues on to explain how Ordinary Angels will uplift viewers just as much as it did for him. “This story is full of heartache and hope,” he said.  “It’s this beautiful blend of all the things we really struggle with in life. We’re in this very divisive time where people like to pick the groups that they are a part of. This calls us to break down barriers and just love and serve those in need. I think that is such a beautiful message that I’m so proud to be a part of.”

Alan Ritchson with Emily Mitchell in Ordinary Angels
Alan Ritchson in Ordinary Angels2024 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc.

Filming the movie’s powerful scenes

The movie was filmed in Winnipeg, Canada and the climactic scene where the community comes together to shovel snow for the helicopter to land is incredible. “You didn’t have to shovel snow,” Swank says playfully pointing at Ritchson. “I had to shovel snow I think it was like our first day. We were working nights and shoveling snow in, what I called, ‘Winterpeg.’ It was so cold.”

Gunn admits filming that scene was particularly taxing on cast and crew. “The snow was the hardest part to shoot, the most challenging production part of it,” he said. “We went specifically to Winnipeg for the storm. We did not know that they were going to get the worst storm in 100 years in Winnipeg while we were shooting. It was very true to life since this movie is about the worst storm in Louisville history and so that was definitely the biggest challenge.” 

Ritchson filming in snowy conditions to get the perfect shot
Ritchson filming in snowy conditions to get the perfect shot2024 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc.

Local regulations made a difficult shoot even more challenging. “We found out a couple days before shooting that the helicopters were not allowed to fly at night,” Gunn reveals. “We had three minutes to get it. It was hard, but we did it with a real helicopter, real people and real snow. It was all real and we got it.”

How Ordinary Angels movie makes a difference in the lives of others

In addition to the medical challenges his daughter is facing, Ed is drowning in mountains of debt — following the death of his wife — as a result of his daughter’s worsening health.

“This is a story where people are deeply impacted by loss of a loved one in the medical system and then ending up overwhelmed by debt. There’s an organization called RIP Medical Debt that we’re working with and for every dollar you donate, they match it a 100-fold, so we’ve already raised a few million dollars that will go towards just wiping out medical debt for people in need,” Gunn explains.

“These are important issues and we’re glad to spread awareness about it, but also to grapple with those issues in the drama of our story because it’s truly what these characters were going through.”

There was a lot of hard work and heart put into making Ordinary Angels and the cast is excited about the Lions Gate film hitting theaters this weekend. “The hope is that you watch it and leave thinking, ‘Where are the places in our world where there is a need that can be filled?’” Gunn says. “[I hope] that somebody actually does some good because of this film. That’s the hope.”

See Ordinary Angels in theaters on Thursday, February 22nd.

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