Behind the scenes of ‘Rootin’ 4 Regen’ film in Gatlinburg

GATLINBURG (WATE) – His bright smile throughout his courageous battle with cancer captured the hearts of millions. WATE 6 On Your Side followed the story of Regen Morris, 12, of Gatlinburg, from his first days after diagnosis, to the end of his journey on Christmas Day 2013.

Now, Regen is being immortalized in a film about his life.

Regen Morris (source: Family)
Regen Morris (source: Family)

The crew with JC Productions, a Christian based film company, has spent the last few months shooting scenes, in many cases, in the actual locations they originally occurred. The company’s president Jason Campbell heard about the Rootin’ 4 Regen phenomenon and felt led to do the film.

Previous story: “Rootin’ 4 Regen” feature film production underway

“It’s the message,” Campbell said. “Regen’s smile brought people closer to Jesus. We know that. We saw that within the community, within his church, his baseball team, basketball team.”

Dan and Tishia Morris, Regen’s parents, never dreamed Regen’s story would one day be told on the big screen. Reliving the moments is often difficult.’

SLIDESHOW: 'Rootin 4 Regen' film production
SLIDESHOW: ‘Rootin 4 Regen’ film production

A lot of emotion has come around,” Dan Morris said. “A lot of sadness, but a lot of happiness, a lot of memories.”

“It’s very surreal,” said Trisha Morris. “I don’t think it will really hit me until after everybody leaves and it’s over, I think.”

During WATE 6 On Your Side’s visit, the film crew was shooting on a side street near the Parkway in Sevier County to re-enact Regen’s homecoming after finishing cancer treatment in Memphis.

Crowds wearing green, Regen’s favorite color, lined the Parkway as an ambulance with him inside allowed Regen to see for himself the outpouring of love. Our crew was there live covering the actual homecoming parade in April 2013.

Watching the familiar scenes play out on a movie set brought back memories of the boy whose message really needed no words.

Jerry Hyder, associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Sevierville, held several Bible studies with Regen during his cancer treatment, and led the cast and crew in prayer before the day of shooting began.

“The strength that little fellow had in his eyes,” Pastor Hyder remembered. “You always walked away thinking, ‘Man, what courage.’ ”

I’m honored to have a small part in this film tribute to Regen, playing the role of a reporter. We were ask not to spoil the surprise of who is portraying Regan, but there is a startling resemblance.

“In addition to looking like Regen, he has got the same heart and really the same spirit, so, in lots of ways it’s almost as if Regen, you know, is a part of this, too,” said Regan’s dad.

Noted actor David Keith is in the film as well, playing one of Regen’s doctors. He also followed Regen’s story, and everyone on the set is thrilled that he is taking part.

The Rootin’ 4 Regen movie is expected to be released in December or January.

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