Newsbites: The Jesus movies past and future edition!

benhur2016-5-a

A few quick items about three recent and upcoming movies about Jesus.

1. Jack Huston, who starred in last year’s remake of Ben-Hur, indicated in a recent interview with Business Insider that the film may have been a critical and commercial flop because too many people interfered with it at the editing stage:

“We did something very different in that Judah was never a hero,” he said. “I wanted the audience to almost be guessing who was going to win the chariot race. What I found so interesting was we could recreate this amazing character.”

But the powers-that-be at Paramount didn’t feel the same way. Huston said filming the movie was seamless but that post production was “not easy.”

“You hire a filmmaker, go with the filmmaker’s vision,” said Huston, who added that he saw numerous version of the movie in post. “The movie kind of breaks my heart because I know what we did and it’s very hard when there’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen.” . . .

“I learned so much from ‘Ben-Hur,’ the whole process was invaluable,” he said. “And I stand by my performance in it because it was a real choice. I know there was a much better film there that we created, it just got lost.”

In related news, Christian Today ran an interview with producer Mark Burnett for the film’s DVD release in the UK last month, but it seems the interview was conducted a lot earlier than that: comments like “I watched yesterday a 15 minute segment of this from the movie, already” suggest that the editing hadn’t been completed yet.

Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter says director Timur Bekmambetov’s production company Bazelevs has been struggling at the box office back home in Russia, too.

2. Garth Davis, who is still promoting his Oscar-nominated film Lion, told The Sydney Morning Herald that he’s prepared for there to be some controversy around his upcoming Mary Magdalene movie, but he doesn’t expect there to be all that much:

Davis lives in Melbourne with his wife and three children, aged 12, nine and four. When he arrives home, with Lion having taken $16 million in cinemas in 18 days, he will get back to editing Mary Magdalene, which he shot in Italy. He says Mary and Jesus will be “very relatable, very human” in the film.

“It’s going to be a film that people are going to connect with as well,” he says. But as the likes of The Last Temptation of Christ and The Passion of the Christ have shown, there is also the potential for controversy with a Biblical story.

“You’re not going to please everybody in this landscape so I’m sure there’s going to be some controversy but it’s not controversial really,” Davis says. “I wouldn’t have the same concerns as the other films before us, put it that way.”

Davis’s cinematographer Greig Fraser (who also shot Rogue One) talked to If.com.au about the cameras he has used on Davis’s films (including Mary Magdalene):

Did you shoot each on the same camera?

No, Lion was shot on the ALEXA 35mm. And Rogue was shot on the ALEXA 65mm. The 65mm camera wasn’t actually out when we were doing Lion. They were in R&D, testing it, and I’d send the guys at ARRI images of some of the locations in India and say, hey guys, if you’ve got a camera, even if it’s just a trial camera, I can make it look great because I’ve got these great locations. Unfortunately it wasn’t feasible at the time. But when Rogue started, the cameras had come online and they’d had enough time to test them. Straight after Rogue, we did Mary Magdalene, which we just wrapped in December. It’s another beautiful drama, and we found much beauty in that 65mm format.

3. Deadline reports that a new film adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is in the works, courtesy of Svetlana Migunova-Dali (who co-chairs the Logos Film Company in Russia) and Grace Loh (president of John Cusack’s New Crime Productions). Bulgakov’s novel — which alternates between the Devil’s visit to Soviet-era Russia and the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus — has been adapted for film and television many times overseas. I wrote about a previous American producer’s attempt to adapt the story way, way back in 2008.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).