Take a look at the photo above — one of the many Risen-themed images that Sony Pictures has released. There are two rather remarkable things about it.
First, it features two actors who have played Jesus. On the left, there is Cliff Curtis, who plays Jesus within Risen itself. And on the right, there is Selva Rasalingam, who plays one of the apostles named James in Risen but also plays Jesus in the Lumo Project series, a four-movie adaptation of the gospels that is still unfolding.
Second, and even more interesting, is the fact that Mary Magdalene (as played by Maria Botto) is sitting between Jesus and James in this picture.
Why is this interesting?
Because, as those who have seen the film will know, Jesus never appears outdoors with the disciples except in Galilee — and Mary Magdalene never appears in the film anywhere outside Jerusalem. The last time we see her, she is standing in the upper room and looking at Clavius after the eleven disciples have left the building.
We already know that the filmmakers deleted an entire subplot about Clavius’s Jewish mistress. I spoke to Joseph Fiennes about that detail when I interviewed him. Were there extra scenes with Mary Magdalene that got deleted from the film, too?
The answer — based on a copy of the screenplay that someone gave me — is yes.
In the finished film, only Clavius and the eleven male disciples go to Galilee.
But in the script, Mary Magdalene goes with the disciples to Galilee and shares a meal of miraculously-caught fish with them and Jesus — hence the photo above.
And then, in a later scene, she falls to her death while saving Clavius from falling off a cliff. The joy the disciples feel in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection is tempered by the realization that believers like them will still experience physical death.
Interestingly, an aspect of this subplot was preserved in Angela Hunt’s novelization — though in Hunt’s version of the story, it is Clavius’s mistress who dies, not Mary, and the mistress is killed by a Roman spear, and not by an accident of gravity.
There is at least one other significant difference between the script and the film (and in this, Hunt’s novelization lines up with the movie, rather than the script).
In the script, Clavius saves the eleven disciples from Lucius and his fellow Romans after the Ascension, and before the disciples say goodbye to Clavius by the Sea of Galilee. In the film, however, this confrontation — which you can watch below — takes place much earlier, when the disciples are still walking north to Galilee.
Risen producer Mickey Liddell told Christian Cinema that the editing process was very “frustrating” because the filmmakers needed to “rework the order of a few scenes”. The movement of this scene to an earlier point in the story was the biggest re-ordering of them all — not counting the subplots that were deleted entirely, of course.
It is interesting to speculate as to why these particular scenes — and others, like one where Jesus does not physically heal a leper in the script but does physically heal him in the film — were deleted or altered. Was it purely because of time limitations or pacing? Or — given that Sony Pictures and their “faith-based” division came on-board the project after the film had already been shot — was it because the studio felt these changes would make the film easier to sell to their “faith-based” audience?
Whatever the case, here’s hoping some of this extra footage ends up on the DVD.