What Renee Zellweger and Jon Voight loved about the Piedmont Driving Club

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Renée Zellweger and Jon Voight were in Atlanta last week for Carry the Torch, a fundraiser hosted by Trinity Community Ministries to benefit organizations that serve the homeless. The event also served to promote the film adaptation of Ron Hall’s faith-based book “Same Kind of Different as Me,” in theaters now. (See the trailer below).

The 2006 book tells the true story of how Hall, who was a successful art dealer, and his late wife Deborah, were changed forever through their friendship with Denver Moore, a resident of the streets of Fort Worth, Texas. The ministry that blossomed from their relationship outlived Deborah, who died of cancer in 2000. (Learn more at samekindofdifferentasmefoundation.org).

“It’s heartening to see that, yes, there are people out there who are committed to making things better for other people,” said Zellweger, who plays Deborah. “It was a nice day at work every day. What an honor to play a lady who made such a difference for so many people.”

During the event, in the Georgia World Congress Center’s Tom Murphy Ballroom, Voight, who plays Hall’s dad Earl Hall, saluted the film’s message and raved about what a joy it was to work with Zellweger, known for roles in movies such as “Chicago,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and its successors, “Cold Mountain” or “Jerry Maguire.”

“She’s smart as a whip, tremendously talented and she’s got the biggest heart you can imagine,” he said. Then he shared a funny anecdote from the prior evening, when they had gathered for a dinner party at the Piedmont Driving Club and found heaven on a plate: those famous butter-soaked saltines. “We couldn’t stop eating them!”

Here’s something else you might not know about Zellweger: she once stood in line for four hours to meet former President Jimmy Carter, when he was in New York during one of his book tours. The line at the Manhattan Barnes & Noble snaked through the store and around the block, but there was no way she was missing the chance to meet her hero, she recalled. Once it was finally her turn, she couldn’t quite find the right words.

“He looked up and said, ‘Hello.’ I said, ‘Hi!’” she said, still giddy from the encounter years later.

Hall, who has spoken in Atlanta before, is grateful for the opportunity to share his story and the foundation’s mission to a wide audience through the movie.

“They signed up for more than a film. They signed up for a movement,” he said of the cast and crew. “We’re going to change America, one person at a time.”

Voight found it rewarding to work on an uplifting film with a positive message at a time when headlines out of Hollywood seem dominated by allegations of harassment, assault and lewd behavior.

“I feel like I’m in some special part of heaven when I’m here. Heaven is in Atlanta,” he said. “Holy smokes. It’s not going through a very positive phase.”

Here’s a trailer of the movie, which stars Greg Kinnear as Ron Hall and Djimon Hounsou as Denver Moore:

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