BEHIND BELLA: The Amazing Stories of Bella and the Lives It’s Changed

By Tim Drake

Ignatius, 2008

125 pages, $17.95

To order: ignatius.com

If you think that Hollywood is a hopeless mess, this book offers a glimpse of hope. In a large, hardcover, glossy format, Register senior writer Tim Drake takes the reader behind the scenes of the popular pro-life movie Bella, telling the story from the viewpoint of the “three amigos” who conceived the drama and brought it to the big screen, despite recurring obstacles.

Director Alejandro Monteverde, producer Leo Severino and lead actor Eduardo Verástegui provide the memories and timeline of the making of Bella, starting when Monteverde thought of the plot while driving to Los Angeles to meet with Verástegui. The two then met Severino, a Hollywood insider, at an L.A. church and began the plan for breaking the Hollywood mold: making a pro-life movie of faith, family and unconditional love.

The three relate numerous providential incidents where they met just the right person at the right time to receive encouragement, endorsement and much-needed funds. Prominent among those was Sean Wolfington, a wealthy, young businessman who became a major financial backer, even before seeing the film.

Like all good movie books, this one contains photos from the movie as well as outtakes and unscripted moments. The book also describes the private hopes and doubts of the cast and the executives.

Unfortunately, the book could have been more tightly edited. Sometimes the same story is related twice in order to set up a different telling of the same series of events.

Still, the book holds some real bonuses and inside stories, such as what happened to Tammy Blanchard, who played the pregnant and emotionally-torn Nina. As Drake relates, Blanchard became pregnant with her boyfriend after making the movie. She delivered a baby girl, Ava Jean, in December 2007.

“I never wanted to have children. I felt it was pointless,” she is quoted as saying. Her attitude changed after Bella, especially due to the influence of the young actress, Sophie Nyweide, who played the title role. “I realized that having a child is about producing more love in the world,” Blanchard said. “That’s what life is about — love and hope.”

The most moving section of the book tells about the “Bella babies,” children who were born after their mothers saw the movie and decided against abortion. The photos of these “living Oscars,” as Severino calls then, are proof that something good and lasting can come out of Hollywood.

In a later incident, a sidewalk counselor asked a woman if she would see the movie before going inside the clinic. After seeing Bella, the woman kept her baby. A number of women cited in the book said they saw themselves in the Nina character, and they gained courage from her decision to give her baby up for adoption.

During the long struggle to bring the movie to the screen, the “three amigos” and Wolfington stated many times that if only one life was changed, the making of Bella would be worth it. This book shows that they more than achieved their dreams.

Stephen Vincent writes

from Wallingford, Connecticut.