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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Mainstream filmmakers looking to Bible as source for upcoming moviescomment (0)

October 31, 2013


Studios and filmmakers are rediscovering a classic text as source material for upcoming mainstream films: the Bible.

Nearly 10 years after the blockbuster success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which earned $611.9 million worldwide, studios are looking to the Good Book for good material.

Future films include:

  • LD Entertainment is financially backing “Resurrection,” a drama set immediately after Jesus’ death and directed by “Hatfields & McCoys” director Kevin Reynolds.
  • Paramount will release “Noah,” a $125 million adaptation starring Russell Crowe in 2014.
  • 20th Century Fox is developing “Exodus,” a Moses film starring Christian Bale.
  • Warner Bros. has another Moses-themed film titled “Gods and Kings,” which Steven Spielberg flirted with directing.
  • Warner Bros. also is working on a film on Pontius Pilate, rumored to possibly include Brad Pitt.
  • Sony is producing Will Smith’s “The Redemption of Cain,” on the sibling rivalry of Cain and Abel.

4Lionsgate has been developing “Mary Mother of Christ,” described as “a prequel to ‘The Passion of the Christ’” and rumored to include Ben Kingsley.

Asking questions over coffee

Alongside the string of upcoming Bible-related films, producers from the History channel’s “The Bible” miniseries just announced the series’ film adaptation “Son of God” will be released in theaters nationwide in February with 20th Century Fox.

Taking a cue from Gibson’s success with “The Passion,” film marketing campaigns now go after pastors’ endorsements through special advance screenings to secure endorsements from big-name religious leaders. As more people are sitting in front of the TV on a Sunday morning rather than in church, “filmmakers are the new high priests of our culture,” said A. Larry Ross, who has handled publicity for several religious leaders and organizations, including Billy Graham and Rick Warren.

“No pastor went to seminary to put people in (theater) seats or build revenue for a film producer,” Ross said. “Many pastors are realizing that in this video-driven culture, stories are the vessels of meaning.”

“For many faith and family films, the impact on the screen is less the answers given than it is the questions asked that you could discuss over coffee with someone who would never go to church with you but go to a movie with you,” he said.

Hollywood’s fascination with the Bible isn’t new: Hollywood drew on biblical storytelling after World War II, especially with Charlton Heston, who played Moses in “The Ten Commandments,” and “Ben-Hur,” a movie about a prince sent into slavery and rescued by Jesus.

‘Beyond the cheap movies’

Independent films have dealt with the Bible in the past, but it’s significant that major Hollywood studios are taking this up, said Tom Allen, a partner in Allied Faith & Family, a Hollywood marketing firm. “We’re beyond the cheap ministry movies that appeal only to a certain constituency,” he said.

As Hollywood looks to epic tales of floods, burning bushes and parting seas, films with biblical themes will also continue to pop up. Nicolas Cage is slated to star in “Left Behind,” a movie based on the book series on the Second Coming of Christ. Sony’s adaption of the popular book “Heaven is for Real” also is scheduled for next year. (RNS)

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