EXCLUSIVE: As Darren Aronofsky’s Noah gets ready to set sail and iconic directors Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg forge ahead with epics about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, faithful Biblical epics are flourishing in Hollywood. It looks like there is even room for one that takes the most controversial look at the life of Jesus Christ since Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ.
I’m told that Muse Productions’ Chris Hanley, whose credits include American Psycho, has stepped up to finance development of a film about Christ. It will be based on Jesus Of Nazareth, a book that director Paul Verhoeven co-wrote after immersing himself in the history and researching the subject for nearly two decades. Verhoeven plans to direct the film, which will be written by Roger Avary. Avary shared the Academy Award for Best Original Script with Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction.
Verhoeven’s take on the life of Jesus Christ discounts all the miracles that inform the New Testament. That includes the virgin birth and the resurrection. Verhoeven doesn’t believe any of them happened. I wrote about Verhoeven’s ambitions in spring 2011, as he and his reps at ICM first tried to find funding — no small feat given some of the theories he put forth in the book.The most controversial: that Jesus might have been the product of his mother being raped by a Roman soldier, which Verhoeven said was commonplace at the time, and that Jesus was a radical prophet who performed exorcisms and was convinced he would find the kingdom of Heaven on earth, and did not know he would be sentenced to die on the cross by Pontius Pilate. That, and the discounting of the miracles that pepper the New Testament, has made this a daunting project to set up. READ MORE »
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has made a whopping deal to acquire screen rights to Unholy Night, the new novel by Seth Grahame-Smith. Grahame-Smith will write the script, and he and KatzSmith partner David Katzenberg will produce with Heyday Films’ David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. I’ve heard that the deal is in the vicinity of $2 million upfront for the rights to the book and for Grahame-Smith to adapt it. The studio got first look at the book, as both KatzSmith and Heyday are based at Warner Bros. That is where Heyman produced the Harry Potter film series and where Grahame-Smith scripted the Tim Burton-directed Dark Shadows. Unholy Night, an action/adventure surrounding the Three Wise Men of the Nativity, will be published in April by Grand Central.
Setting up a film based around the birth of Jesus Christ gives Warner Bros its third high-profile movie based on a seminal religious story. The studio has been discussing the possibility of Steven Spielberg directing Gods And Kings, an epic-sized film about the life of Moses scripted by Michael Green and Stuart Hazeldine. And Warner Bros recently set up a project being scripted by Joe Eszterhas and Mel Gibson (who has first option to direct) about the heroic story of Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee, who teamed with his father and four brothers to lead the Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrian armies that had conquered Judea in the second century B.C. Maccabee’s triumph and struggle against tyranny and oppression where people gave their lives so that others would be free to worship is celebrated by Jews all over the world through Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: It’s a project that will have everybody in Hollywood and beyond talking. I’ve learned that Warner Bros has set up an untitled drama that teams Gibson and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas on the telling of the heroic story of Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee. Eszterhas will write the script, and I understand that Gibson will collaborate with him. Maccabee teamed with his father and four brothers to lead the Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrian armies that had conquered Judea in the second century B.C. Gibson has the first option to direct but will definitely produce the film through his Icon Productions banner. It’s understandable why Warner Bros would want to be back in business with Gibson, who was once a high-profile fixture there and who made a fortune for that studio with the Lethal Weapon series and other films.
Having put some painful personal issues behind him, Gibson is determined to get back to making movies. He has long wanted to make this film about heroic Jews, and it was discussed even when he was under fire after his drunken anti-Semitic rant during a 2006 Malibu arrest. Maccabee’s triumph and struggle against tyranny and oppression where people gave their lives so that others would be free to worship is celebrated by Jews all over the world through Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. This subject matter is a decided departure for the filmmaker famous for directing The Passion of the Christ. But in a way the subject matter is in his wheelhouse: Maccabee is a close cousin to William Wallace, leader of the Scottish rebellion against the English in Braveheart, the film that brought Gibson two Oscars: for Best Picture and Best Director. Gibson last directed Apocalypto about the Mayan civilization and a tribesman who escapes human sacrifice and saves his family. While Gibson has experienced tremendous success as a producer and director, his recent star turn in front of the camera in The Beaver was a box office failure even though it received a rousing ovation at this past Cannes Film Festival.
This new deal also marks a major return to filmmaking for Joe Eszterhas, once Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriter for pics like Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge, and Flashdance. His credits also include two films that focused on Jewish themes: Read More »