The Griffiths were an American family like many others, a close-knit and loving one that was anchored by a belief in God. That ideal world was shattered the day youngest son, Bobby, revealed that he was gay.

Based on the book by Leroy Aarons, the true story unfolds in "Prayers for Bobby," just released on DVD (A&E, $20) and originally produced for the Lifetime network.

Sigourney Weaver, who plays Bobby's mother, Mary, in the film, eagerly became involved in the project after reading the script and the book.

"Knowing it was a true story, and such a heartbreaking story, I just knew it had to be made," Weaver said. "People need to see this film."

When Mary, a devout Christian, learned of Bobby's sexual orientation, she retreated deeper into her religion. She prayed for a cure for Bobby's "illness" and kept the pressure on her son about changing his ways.

It was too much for Bobby, who eventually committed suicide. A stunned Mary was forced to examine her lifelong views on homosexuality.

"She is an extraordinary woman," Weaver said. "Her story is so moving. After Bobby's death, she was able to change her perspective and become an activist for gay rights. She told me the whole story from her point of view. As an actor, you can't have anything better than learning from the source."

Dan Butler, an openly gay actor who plays the minister in the movie, said a film like this could not been made for television 25 years ago.

"The attitudes have gradually changed over the years," Butler said. "Still, there is an ebb-and-flow, back-and-forth with these attitudes from time to time. But we're better off than we were years ago."

Butler said the experience of working on "Prayers for Bobby" was a rewarding one.

"Just meeting Mary Griffith was worth it," he said. "She is a special person who had the courage to change her ideas and become involved."

Weaver hopes the DVD will have the same effect on those who watch it.

"I think of lot of the negative attitudes come from fear and ignorance," she said. "It can happen in any family, even one that seems like the All-American family. I hope that's what people will understand after watching the film."