LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – There aren't many actors in Hollywood who have the on-screen convictions that Neal McDonough has, but he is perfectly fine standing mostly alone.
The 50-year-old actor who is known for his roles in Captain America: The First Avenger, Flags of Our Fathers, Minority Report, and Band of Brothers has two rules for the roles he plays: He won't use God's name in vain and he won't kiss another woman on screen.
That means that McDonough – a devout Catholic with a wife and five children — has missed out on landing spots in quite a few other movies and TV shows over the years.
McDonough's next film – the faith-based football film Greater – opens this weekend.
"Life is about honoring God and being the best human being you can be and giving praise to God in everything you do," McDonough told the Christian Examiner. "Killing people on screen – that's fake. That's not real. When you're in bed with another woman on screen – guess what? That's real. I don't like that kind of stuff. Especially now with kids, I don't want to have my kids say, 'Hey, Dad, what are you doing with that lady on screen?'"
In Greater (PG), McDonough gets to play a good guy, and he doesn't have to worry about any particular scenes.
Greater tells the true story of former Arkansas Razorback Brandon Burlsworth, a walk-on who earned a scholarship and then became an All-America offensive lineman during the late 1990s. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and would have played with Peyton Manning, but Burlsworth tragically died in a car crash less than two weeks after the draft.
The movie spotlights Burlsworth's talent but also his strong Christian faith. McDonough plays Marty Burlsworth, Brandon's older brother who – because of their 16-year age difference – was a father figure. Marty was devastated -- in real life and on screen.
"When I was playing Marty for those two months, it was very emotional," McDonough said. "It was very hard for me, and hard on my wife and my five kids. When you dive into a character, you've got to jump into it and tell the truth. Playing Marty Burlsworth was not an easy thing. By the end of the movie, Marty realizes [his brother] is in a better place, because there is faith, there is God, there is more to life than just ourselves. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and am so proud of Greater."
As a sports fan, McDonough said he had heard of Burlsworth but "had no idea that Brandon was such a devout Christian" until he was contacted about the role
"If I could do films about God every day of the week, that's what I would do the rest of my life," McDonough said. "But Hollywood doesn't make enough of those movies for me to make a living. Hopefully, something like Greater will lift up Hollywood so that it will realize: You know what? We can make movies without explosions and killing people. That's what I'm praying for."
Currently, he said, there are "two routes" for Hollywood actors.
"You can either be the guy who kisses girls on screen, or make a career at people who kill people on screen," he said. "There's two rules I have for the screen: I won't use the Lord's name in vain and I won't kiss another woman on screen. As an actor: How do I make money at this thing? I love acting. So the 'bad guy thing' came up, and that has been my niche for a long time now."
"If at some point my career runs out as an actor of being bad guys and I can't do anything else, then I'll think of something else to do. But for now, I am really enjoying career and enjoying my family, and most importantly, my relationship with God. I hope I'm doing Him proud."
Greater is rated PG for thematic elements, some language and smoking.