Is Machine Gun Preacher Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Ilze Kitshoff/MGP Productions

‘Machine Gun Preacher’ chronicles the brave story of Sam Childers, a former gang biker who turns his life around and becomes a preacher. However, that’s only the start of his long and strenuous fight to protect the children of South Sudan from the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). Even after a 13-year-long battle, Sam does not lose his spirit and his dream to build a better future for these children.

The action drama movie is helmed by Marc Forster and stars Gerald Butler in the lead. The 2011 cinematic piece is a beacon of hope and an inspiration to many who dream of following in Sam’s footsteps. If you are curious to learn whether there is any grain of truth to the story, here’s all you need to know.

Is Machine Gun Preacher a True Story?

Yes, ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ is inspired by the true story of Sam Childers. His biography, ‘Another Man’s War’ was adapted into a flawless screenplay by Jason Keller. Sam was raised in the Pennsylvania hills by honest and hardworking parents. He had a reputation for always getting into trouble, having physical fights, sleeping with adult women, and selling drugs during his teenage years. After further entangling himself in the world of crime, he met his soon-to-be wife, Lynn, who then worked as a stripper. He took his father’s words to heart and transformed his life by taking one step at a time.

Image Credit: Ilze Kitshoff/MGP Productions

Starting with a construction worker, Sam slowly worked through his alcohol and drug consumption and later rediscovered God. After becoming sober, he visited Yei, a village in Sudan, in 1998 amidst the Second Sudanese War. He volunteered to reform the village, and the turning point of his story was witnessing a child’s body that was damaged by a landmine. At that moment, he made a vow to dedicate himself to the greater cause of helping the people from South Sudan.

Sam returned to the country again to start a business venture, but according to Sam, the lord wanted him to build an orphanage. He was up against the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebellious group that slayed thousands of villagers and kidnapped 30,000 children. He sold his construction business to fund the orphanage while his own family struggled to pay the bills. Years later, the orphanage still stands proud and has served thousands of children.

In an interview, Sam revealed what made him the happiest about the biographical movie. He said, “Everything in the movie is based on the truth; it’s just that the timeline is a little messed up. The action scenes are amped up some. I think the thing that bothers me a lot is that when I look into who I was and remember the people that I hurt.” He continued, “I think the greatest thing the movie shows is that I came to a point in my life that I knew I had to change. And there’s a lot of things we can do to change our life, but I chose Jesus Christ.”

Sam also briefly discussed his faith, marriage, his dressing style, and other components of the movie. In another interview, Gerald Butler, who plays Sam Childers in the movie, praised the screenwriter for creating an “astonishing script” that encapsulates the courage of the man who dared to make a change. He also revealed the process before the movie was filmed when the crew met up with the real-life hero. Gerald said, “We went to visit him and stayed. I stayed with him in Pennsylvania.” The actor added, “I probably have about forty hours of conversation where I would just always have Sam on in the background as much to listen to how he talked and how he expressed himself.”

Screenwriter Jason Keller spoke about not wanting to create a movie that covered politics but rather something that moved people. He also shared his thoughts about Sam and what the film truly stands for in an interview with Movie Mom. Jason commented, “What I’m proud of is that it isn’t so neat and tidy about Sam or about Central Africa. There are no easy answers. Sam’s not a great guy, even now. It’s not a story of a bad guy turned good guy. It’s about a human being who decided to make different choices, but he’s still flawed. He’s still violent. He’s still intimidating.”

Jason added, “He’s still making mistakes. It’s that messiness I responded to as a fellow human being.” Thus, we reiterate ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ is the true story of a man who brought the gift of reformation to not only his life but also the world around him and to the much-needed people who were neglected. Undoubtedly some segments were fictionalized and molded to fit into the standard of entertainment, especially the action sequences. However, the film is an honest portrayal of Sam Childers, who was also awarded the Mother Teresa Award for his noble deeds.

Read More: Best Movies Based on True Stories on Netflix