You may not know the name Christina Noble, but thousands of children across Southeast Asia do. Noble lived a childhood that was more traumatic than most. Abandoned by her absent father, Noble grew up in a cruel religious institution, was gang raped as a teenager, faced an unexpected pregnancy and had her newborn baby taken from her by manipulative nuns. Through it all, though, she maintained her faith in God.
Then one day she had a dream about Vietnam – and that is where Stephen Bradley’s “Noble” biopic begins.
The Irish producer spent five years making ‘Noble’ – and it all started with a book Bradley’s wife, Deirdre O’Kane, happened to be reading.
“She had read Christina Noble’s books many years ago and had always sort of been obsessed with Christina’s story and has then gone on to do fundraisers for Christina’s foundation through her stand-up comedy," he said. "One day we sat down to talk and came up with an idea to develop together and she said there’s only one idea I want to do and that’s Christina Noble. That was the start.”
Once the couple nailed down their idea, they sought out Christina to earn her blessing. Bradley and Noble's blossoming relationship is apparent in the picture above.
“The next two years were spent really getting to know Christina and really gaining her trust," Bradley explained. "The best thing was, what happened at the end of that two years when she signed over the legal documents. She just said, ‘Okay I trust you, you go ahead and make the film now. I don’t need to know anything about what you’re doing.’ She actually didn’t see the film until it was completely finished. She gave me complete freedom which was fantastic.”
The cast features O'Kane as Christina, as well as an important supporting role by "Downton Abbey" star Brendan Coyle.
It’s hard to watch “Noble” without realizing what a huge part Christina’s faith played in her life.
“In a way it’s so integral to the story that you can’t tell the story without the faith-based aspect to it. As you see in the film, there are so many turning points in Christina’s life that her faith has driven her forward. In a sense it was just so natural.”
Christina’s faith seemed to be the one constancy in her life, as she witnessed the rest of her life fall apart. It enabled her to follow her heart to Vietnam, where her impact is still being felt today.
A bit more about the Christina Noble Foundation. She has offices in the States, France, Hong Kong, Australia. In Vietnam, she has over 100 projects across the country that helped over 700,000 children. In Mongolia, she’s built an actual village to help street children.
“She uses her network abroad to channel funds and energy toward Vietnam and Mongolia,” Bradley explained. “Her system seems to work extremely well.”
Just ask the children featured in the film. They’re much more than extras.
“It was great. Most of the children, apart from the kid who plays Lam, all came through the Christina Noble foundation. All are orphans or have other difficulties. Working with them was fantastic because they absolutely understood the story – it was their story. Also, one of Christina’s big emphases when she’s working with the children or looking after the children and through the ethos of her foundation, is discipline. So the children were very disciplined and very able to keep up with the boredom of long hours on a film set. They were really wonderful to work with.”
Bradley’s ‘Noble’ has already inspired people to get involved in her charity and make differences of their own.
“Lots of people have gotten involved in the foundation, have made donations, have helped in other ways, sponsoring a child, or actually connecting with Christina and her foundation. That wasn’t the essence of my dive behind telling what is just an extraordinary story, but the great thing is that audiences react that way and just naturally respond to the film.”
I admitted I hadn’t heard of Christina Noble before watching the film, but that only assured Bradley he had made the right choice.
“That’s why we’ve made the film.”
You can find out more about “Noble” at thenoblemovie.com and you can catch the film in theaters this Friday.