It seems you can’t have a conversation with anyone involved in the making of Selma – the dramatization of the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – without them attributing its existence to the result of a Higher Power at work.

Take, for example, this Providential anecdote from Mark Friedberg, the film’s Production Designer, that he shared during my on-location set visit this past June. It was the day they were shooting Dr. King’s famous speech from the steps of the Montgomery capitol (which closes the film), and Friedberg was reflecting on how he wasn’t happy with the podium being used as King’s lectern. “So we put the lectern up there,” Friedberg said, pointing to the capitol steps, “and… I didn’t like it.  I wrinkled my nose, and I couldn’t figure out why. It occurred to me it shouldn’t be a lectern. It should be a pulpit.” So Friedberg and his crew walked one-hundred feet to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and talked with Reverend Cromwell Handy to see what they may have. Handy smiled, telling Friedberg that just two days prior not only had they discovered the church’s old pulpit deep in the corners of the storage basement but that “it should be up there because that is the pulpit Dr. King delivered his speech from 50 years ago.” Stunned by how his “random” artistic inspiration led to the actual pulpit Dr. King stood behind for this very speech, Friedberg said they all just looked at each other, smiling with the realization that there was a force at work “clearly bigger than any of us.”

For actor David Oyelowo (pronounced Oy-yellow-o), the relative unknown who portrays Dr. King, he has seen God’s hand at work since he first read the script nearly eight years ago in July of 2007.  After reading it, he says during our phone conversation, “I felt God tell me that I was going to play Dr. King – and in Selma. Unfortunately,” he adds, chuckling, “the director at the time didn’t agree with me.” Raised a Baptist who, as he specifies, “became a born-again Christian when I was sixteen,” Oyelowo is no stranger to listening for God’s voice. “There was something that I just couldn’t shake once I had read that script,” he recalls, “and then I just had that knowing. I know that Voice. I know God’s voice in my life, and I just couldn’t shake it from that point on.”

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