R-Rated Pro-Life Film 'Unplanned' Cut More Gruesome Footage, Producer Reveals
When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the pro-life film Unplanned an R rating, a minor scandal erupted. Few knew that some of the most gruesome footage died on the cutting-room floor.
Speaking with PJ Media this week, producer Joe Knopp said that while members of the Unplanned team publicly expressed disappointment at the rating, he thinks it's a positive development.
"For me, as a pro-life believer who believes life begins at conception, when I watched those scenes — the opening scene with the procedure room and then the second one with the shower — I know that in front of my eyes, a baby is being murdered," he said.
"I see the blood, I hear the music, the baby lose the battle with life before my eyes. For me, that’s R rated," Knopp added. He said it took a while before he and his wife agreed to allow their 14-year-old daughter to see the movie.
As for the MPAA, the producer said, "I’ve got to believe when they watched the movie, they thought it was actually violence against a human being to the point where they also felt it deserves an R rating. There was part of me that thought it would be PG-13 because they thought the violence was not against human beings."
He admitted that the R rating helped Unplanned from a media standpoint. "There’s no denying that a lot of people grabbed onto the fact that Hollywood said abortion is violence." PJ Media's Dustin Siggins defended the "R" rating with exactly this perspective.
Knopp pointed out, however, that the team "did not aim for a rating when we were filming." In fact, they cut parts of the gruesome scenes so as not to be too disturbing.
"You have to have this discernment — how do you show what is really happening? Mel Gibson did it with The Passion of the Christ. He took people to the edge," the producer said. "We wanted to take people to the edge, we didn’t want to lose them."
Knopp noted that recent news brought up the issues of late-term abortion and infanticide. "The images we are being forced to deal with in our minds — infanticide and late-term abortion — those images are brutal. Sometimes as pro-life and as believers, we bring a butter knife to a gun fight," he said. But pro-lifers also should not go too graphic, or people won't listen.
"In the film, they are emotionally engaged. It’s been effective. We’ve had a lot of people who said they never thought about it before, but now their eyes are definitely opened," the producer added.
He noted that Unplanned "could have lost our audience, they could have walked out." Instead, the movie found the right balance.
"For the majority of the people, they said, 'It was hard to watch, but you took us right to that edge,'" Knopp said.
The movie came out last weekend and surprised at the box office. Knopp predicted another strong showing for the next weekend.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.