Chiwetel Ejiofor to play the apostle Peter in Mary Magdalene

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With Rooney Mara playing Mary Magdalene and Joaquin Phoenix playing Jesus, there has been some concern that Garth Davis’s Mary Magdalene movie might give us yet another “whitewashed” version of the New Testament. But this latest bit of news could put that to rest: Deadline reports that Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was Oscar-nominated for his starring role in 12 Years a Slave, is in talks to play the apostle Peter.

Ejiofor would not be the first actor of African descent to play Peter; just last year, the part was played by Alexis Rodney in Killing Jesus. The part has also been played in recent films and TV shows by actors like Darwin Shaw (in The Bible), who is part Afghan-Indian; Adam Levy (in A.D. The Bible Continues), a Jewish actor whose father was born in Baghdad; and Stewart Scudamore (in Risen), who is part Greek.

There is still no word as to what particular take on the story of Mary Magdalene this film will offer. In some apocryphal traditions — and in productions like this year’s Easter Mysteries — it has sometimes been imagined that Peter and Mary Magdalene were rivals for Jesus’ attention or for leadership positions within the early church. Would a film centred on Mary Magdalene take this approach to Peter too?

We’ll find out soon enough. The film starts shooting this summer and is aiming for a release next year. Presumably there will be more casting news soon, too.

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