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How Accurate is Unsung Hero? The True Story of the Family Behind For King & Country

In addition to this article, watch the History vs. Hollywood episode below from our YouTube channel:


Joel Smallbone
Born: June 5, 1984
Sydney, Australia

David Smallbone
Birthplace: Australia
Bio: Patriarch of the Smallbone Family

Daisy Betts
Born: February 1, 1982
Sydney, Australia

Helen Smallbone
Birthplace: Australia
Bio: Matriarch of the Smallbone Family

Kirrilee Berger
Born: August 18, 1999

Rebecca Smallbone
Born: July 26, 1977
Birthplace: Sydney, Australia
Bio: Oldest Child | Stage Name Rebecca St. James

Jonathan Jackson
Born: May 11, 1982
Orlando, Florida, USA

Eddie DeGarmo
Born: October 3, 1954
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Bio: Music Producer

Historical Accuracy (Q&A):

Is Unsung Hero about For King & Country?

No. When I first heard that Unsung Hero was going to be released, I assumed it was going to be a movie that chronicled the true story behind the rise of the band For King & Country. After all, the poster somewhat confusingly states, "A For King & Country Film," which could be interpreted in more than one way. However, Unsung Hero is not a For King & Country movie, at least not directly. The band is instead behind the making of the film (Luke Smallbone is an executive producer and Joel co-directs and stars in the movie).

Joel Smallbone and his brother Luke, lead singers of the Christian pop duo For King & Country, are just boys in the movie. The film instead focuses on the early struggles of their family after moving to America and the breakout success of their older sister, singer-songwriter Rebecca St. James. "The film really chronicles 1991 to about 1992 or three," Joel told Faith on Film TV.

Did their father, David Smallbone, run a successful music company in Australia that went under?

The Unsung Hero true story confirms that David Smallbone's once-thriving music business in Australia fell apart. He had been a concert promoter and had brought in acts like Amy Grant, the Christian metal band Stryper, and the Christian pop-rock band White Heart. Like in the movie, his business in Australia went under. When the Smallbone family came to America, they had nothing.

"Dad was a concert promoter back [in Australia]," son Luke Smallbone said on Huckabee. "On one particular tour that he brought back, we lost everything that we had as a family. We lost the house. We lost the car. We lost the life savings, and so, dad was looking for a fresh start for his career, for the family, and so he thought it would be a good idea to move his six kids, and his wife who was six months pregnant at the time, to Nashville. ... Soon after we arrived in Nashville, my dad lost the job opportunity that he had here. So we were Australian, no friends, no family, sleeping on beds made out of clothes, and didn't have any way for our little sister to be born in a hospital."

Joel Smallbone (bottom) portrays his father David (top) in the movie. Photo: Instagram @joelsmallbone

Did the Smallbones have six children at the time they moved their family to America?

Yes. When the family emigrated to America in 1991, Helen and David Smallbone had six children and Helen was six months pregnant with their seventh when they arrived in Nashville.

This photo was taken shortly after the birth of the seventh Smallbone child several months after the family arrived in America. Rebecca is in the back, Joel is in the middle, and Luke is third from the bottom. Photo: Instagram @rebeccast.james

Does For King & Country frontman Joel Smallbone portray his father in the film?

Yes. As indicated by the Unsung Hero cast vs. real people section at the top of this page, musician Joel Smallbone, who fronts the Christian pop band For King & Country, portrays his father, David, in the film. Joel told The Drive-In Podcast that the jacket that he wears for much of the film was his father's actual jacket from 30 years earlier.

"He's a dreamer. He's a passionate man," Joel said of his father. "It was a very volatile time in his life, and we didn't want to shy away for politics sake or even for family peace, we didn't want to shy away from telling it truthfully ... warts and all."

Joel is not new to acting. One of his other notable lead roles was starring in the 2016 human trafficking film Priceless, which found him playing a widower who takes a shady job driving a box truck, only to discover that his cargo is actually people. Like last year's much-talked-about human trafficking drama Sound of Freedom, Priceless was also inspired by true events, and as with Unsung Hero, its title was borrowed from one of the band's hit songs.

David and Helen Smallbone are portrayed by Daisy Betts and Joel Smallbone in the Unsung Hero movie. Photo: Instagram @joelsmallbone

Does Unsung Hero accurately portray the hardships that the Smallbone family faced after they arrived in America?

"Our family moved from Australia to the U.S. in 1991, and it was a little bit of a traumatic beginning to our first couple years here," says For King & Country's sister, Rebecca Smallbone, whose stage name is Rebecca St. James. "My dad lost [the job he had lined up] soon after we moved. We had six kids in the family. My mom was pregnant with my sister and we had nothing, and so, what we did is we prayed and we asked God for money, for food, for a car, for furniture, for all the things that we needed." The Smallbone family's struggles are chronicled in her mother Helen's book Behind the Lights: The Extraordinary Adventure of a Mum and Her Family.

Rebecca told Tampa's News Channel 8 that they saw God answer their prayers. People showed up at their house with groceries and furniture. Unexpected checks arrived in the mail and someone paid for Rebecca's sister to be born in a hospital. "I think those years of seeing God show up for us really set the stage for me, not only in my private life and my faith with God, but then publically too." Rebecca says that as a 16-year-old musician, she drew from those hard times and the redemption her family experienced. It allowed her to speak from a place of hope.

Are Lucas Black and Candace Cameron Bure's characters, husband and wife Jed and Kay Albright, based on real people?

In the movie, Jed and Kay Albright befriend and help the struggling Smallbone family, including by giving them a van. During an interview with CBN, Candace Cameron Bure indicated that her character is based on a real person. However, Jed and Kay Albright don't appear by name in Helen Smallbone's book Behind the Lights. They seem to most closely resemble Jon and Luanne Mohr, who loaned the family their new Previa before giving them ten thousand dollars to buy their own van. They further helped the family financially by having Rebecca Smallbone babysit and clean. Like Jed (Lucas Black) in the movie, Jon is described as being a "prolific songwriter." Jon and Luanne also invited the family to a homeschooling Thanksgiving dinner.

Helen mentions other people helping the family, including a neighbor named Kay Smith, who would buy extra groceries and drop them off. Kay was the one who told Jon Mohr about the Smallbones. Candace Cameron Bure was referring to this Kay in the CBN interview. In a later interview with the same network, she confirmed that her character is an amalgamation of more than one real-life woman who helped the family.

Did they really knock on the door of music executive Eddie Degarmo while looking for lawns to cut?

Yes. An Unsung Hero fact-check confirms that it's true that they encountered Eddie Degarmo, a Christian musician-turned-music executive, while they were looking for yards to cut to help make ends meet. In an interview with K-LOVE, Luke Smallbone commented on this pivotal moment in the movie. "I asked Eddie. ... Did we really like come and knock on your front door, and then you say, 'You can mow our lawn?' And he goes, 'Oh yeah,' and I said, 'Tell me about that,' and he goes, 'Well, I could tell that this family, you guys, were struggling,' and he said, 'I realized, you know what, if they're willing to work for this, I could help them by giving them a job.'"

Music executive Eddie Degarmo is pictured on set with the actor who portrays him, Jonathan Jackson, who is best known for his role as Lucky Spencer on General Hospital. Photo: Huckabee

Did Rebecca St. James write the song "You Make Everything Beautiful" when she was a teenager?

No. "It's a song actually that Luke and I wrote together [in 2011], so it's not quite as old as what the movie portrays," Rebecca St. James told Mike Huckabee, "but it's a song that says you make everything beautiful in your time, like it's a song of redemption, and really the theme of the movie is that there's hope even in the hardest of times in our lives, that God can redeem it." In a key moment in the film, Rebecca (Kirrilee Berger) uses the song to audition for Eddie Degarmo (Jonathan Jackson). In real life, her performance for Eddie was in a church. "I was singing worship songs and he came to see me do it, and so it's very similar in the film," says Rebecca.

Rebecca Smallbone is portrayed by American actress Kirrilee Berger. Photo: Instagram @kingdomstorycompany

Does Luke Smallbone have a cameo in Unsung Hero?

Yes. Luke, who is the other half of the For King & Country duo and an executive producer on the film, has a cameo in Unsung Hero as the lead singer of the Christian metal band Stryper.

Does Rebecca St. James have a cameo in Unsung Hero?

Yes. For King & Country's sister, Rebecca Smallbone (aka Rebecca St. James), has a small cameo as a flight attendant in the movie during the family's trip over from Australia. The film itself focuses largely on her breakthrough as a musician when she was 16.

"It was a very hard role. I really had to focus on, you know, being present to this role," Rebecca said jokingly on Huckabee when discussing her brief appearance in the movie. She said that most of her siblings also have cameos in the film.

Rebecca Smallbone, whose stage name is Rebecca St. James, has a brief cameo as a flight attendant in the movie. Photo: Lionsgate

Who is the "unsung hero" of the movie?

The title of the movie refers to their mother, Helen Smallbone. "Mother, in that time of going through enormous obstacles and enormous challenges, was the person who did all the things that nobody sees but that matter significantly in every person's heart and every person's soul, and that's essentially kinda the heartbeat behind wanting to make this film," said son Luke Smallbone.

The title of the film was taken from the For King & Country song "Unsung Hero", which is about their mom and how much she meant to them and has inspired their own lives. Luke Smallbone, who is an executive producer on the film, says that the song helped to inspire them to move forward with the movie. He told Mike Huckabee, "Mother Teresa once said, 'If you want to change the world, go home and love your family,' and that's really the heartbeat behind the film."

Co-director and star Joel Smallbone told Faith on Film TV that when casting their mother, it was important for them to find an actress who could represent her accurately. First and foremost, it was important that she be a mother and Australian. They also looked for a brunette and someone of similar height. They ended up casting Australian actress Daisy Betts at the last minute, ten days before production began. Betts is married with four children and lives in Australia.

While the movie is about all of the unsung heroes in the Smallbone family, the title primarily refers to their mother, Helen Smallbone, who is portrayed by Daisy Betts. Photo: Instagram @kingdomstorycompany