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'Machine Gun Preacher': Gerard Butler spotlights Sam Childers

September 22, 2011 |  3:42 pm

Gerard Butler at the "Machine Gun Preacher" premiere

Who is that man, and why is Gerard Butler hugging him like there's no tomorrow? Sam Childers is the real-life inspiration for Butler's new movie, "Machine Gun Preacher," which costars Michelle Monaghan and had its U.S. premiere Wednesday night in Beverly Hills.

"Preacher" stars Butler as Childers, a drug-dealer-turned-preacher-turned-rescuer-of-orphans in war-torn Sudan. Monaghan plays Childers' wife, Lynn, whom he met during his wild days, when she was a stripper. Both later turned to the church, which put them on the path to Africa.

Pictures: 'Machine Gun Preacher' premiere

"I cry every time I watch it, especially the first part when I was not a good person," Childers told the Los Angeles Times at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the movie premiered.

"There are things in that movie that I tried to block out -- I started doing drugs when I was 11. I was a heroin addict. I sold drugs to my high school teachers -- and now it's out there. None of that was fabricated." He said more than 70% of the movie is true.

Butler -- who during filming carried with him pictures of children mutilated by fighters who for two decades have raided villages in southern Sudan in the dark of night -- worked for one-thirtieth his normal rate on the film.

Kathy Baker, Madeline Carroll, Souleymane Sy Savane and Ryan Campos were also there from the "Preacher" cast, with Zoe Saldana, Ana Alexander, Sebastian Roche, Tiffany Hines, Christopher Atkins, Claire Coffee and Azita Ghanizada among the faces spotted on the red carpet.

The Beverly Hills premiere was a benefit for Childers' Angels of East Africa. "Machine Gun Preacher" opens Friday.


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-- Christie D'Zurilla

Photo: Sam Childers, left, and Gerard Butler at the U.S. premiere of "Machine Gun Preacher" in Beverly Hills on Sept. 21. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press