Newsbites: The biblical and religious edition!

1. Marlon Wayans has been hired to produce and star in the film version of The Year of Living Biblically. This is worrying, for two reasons: First, his surprisingly decent performance in Requiem for a Dream (2000) aside, Wayans is best known for really dumb comedy, whether as a supporting character in movies like Dungeons & Dragons (2000) or as a collaborator with his brothers on lowbrow fare like White Chicks (2004) and the first two Scary Movies (2000-2001). Second, Sammy Davis Jr. aside, black Americans tend to be Christian, not Jewish, and the story of a Christian who tries to follow all of the Bible’s rules is bound to be somewhat different from the story of a Jew who attempts the same. I haven’t read A.J. Jacobs’ book yet, so I can’t say quite how it would be different — but, for example, I have read that Jacobs did not approach the New Testament the same way he approached the Old because, as a Jew, he could not obey the command to follow Jesus. At any rate, it is certainly possible that the film version could clear these hurdles, but for now, I’m not counting on it. — Hollywood Reporter

2. The Catholic Bishops Conference of India has called for a ban of Angels & Demons, the upcoming sequel to The Da Vinci Code (2006). Meanwhile, director Ron Howard has written an editorial for the Huffington Post in which he says the new film’s negative assertions about Catholic history cannot be “lies” because they are “fiction”. (But they can still be negative, right?) And now word has come that author Dan Brown has finally finished the third book in the series, and the studio that produced the first two movies is already planning to make the third; the new book is called The Lost Symbol and it comes out in September. — Hollywood Reporter (x2), Huffington Post, Variety

3. Last week was not a particularly good week for Mel Gibson. By now, everyone has heard about the divorce suit filed by Robyn, his wife of 28 years, and Mel’s revelation that he and Robyn have been separated since August 2006 — four weeks after he was busted for drunk driving, three weeks before their daughter got married and a few months before the release of Apocalypto. Less publicized, however, was the latest development in the ongoing lawsuit launched by Benedict Fitzgerald, Gibson’s co-writer on The Passion of the Christ (2004) and a producer of the upcoming Mary, Mother of Christ (which is not related to Gibson in any way, shape or form). Fitzgerald has “amended his lawsuit” and is “now demanding to see the accounting records” for The Passion; Fitzgerald claims Gibson lied to him about the cost of that film, in order to reduce Fitzgerald’s writing fee, and he claims Gibson is still lying about what that film cost to make. — Studio Briefing

4. Kings, the TV series that modernizes the story of Saul and David, has been bumped to the summer. The show began in mid-March, with four episodes broadcast on Sunday nights; then it was “moved” to a single Saturday night a few days ago. But now it is being put on hold yet again, and it won’t resume until June 13. — Hollywood Reporter

5. The makers of Year One, the “biblical comedy” that features several characters from the Book of Genesis, have posted a new clip from the film that does not feature any characters from the Book of Genesis. —

6. Christopher Hitchens will pitch a film version of his book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto, in May. Hitchens has already debated Christian apologist Douglas Wilson and co-starred with him in a documentary called Collision. — Hollywood Reporter

7. Rod Dreher has interviewed Matt Baglio, whose book on Catholic exorcists, The Rite, is being made into a film written by Michael Petroni and directed by Mikael Håfström. Meanwhile, Terry Mattingly has interviewed Father Gary Thomas, the priest who is the subject of Baglio’s book. — Rod Dreher, Terry Mattingly

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  • Apache

    I don’t understand the Fitzgerald lawsuit. I thought studios and production companies always OVER-estimate production costs to avoid sharing the revenues. That situation happened with Battlefield Earth. It would make sense if Fitzgerald alleged that the Passion budget was padded and he didn’t receive his fair profit participation. But I’ve never heard of a writer’s salary going up when the film goes over budget.

  • I haven’t read A.J. Jacobs’ book yet, so I can’t say quite how it would be differentI have, and the fact that he’s coming at it from a Jewish perspective, as a member of a Jewish community really does strongly inform the entire thing, as I recall.

    I very much recommend the book, by the way. It’s very funny and good-natured and thought-provoking, and seems to me likely to appeal to people across most of the religious spectrum.

    The idea of making a movie out of it strikes me as really dumb, but that’s Hollywood for you, I guess.

  • is it my imagination or are there an increase in biblically and/or religously themed films of late?! sheesh, that’s a lot of tidbits, heh.