Mary Magdalene’s Joaquin Phoenix says his Jesus is “just a man”

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We still haven’t seen any official images or trailers for Mary Magdalene, the biblical drama that the Weinstein Company recently bumped to next year, but the film’s stars are beginning to talk about it. Last summer, Rooney Mara — who plays the title character — talked to Empire magazine about why she took the role. And now, Joaquin Phoenix has hinted at how he plays Jesus in the film.

Speaking to T Magazine about his career in general, Phoenix briefly mentions his reasons for taking the role of Jesus, and how he approached it:

When asked why he decided to play Jesus in the upcoming ‘‘Mary Magdalene,’’ a retelling of the New Testament story by the director Garth Davis, he says, ‘‘I was looking for something meaningful. I was looking for an experience. I was friends with Rooney.’’ (Rooney Mara plays Mary Magdalene in the movie. The two are now a couple.) Jesus, in the film, is ‘‘just a man’’ and playing him was ‘‘just instinct, just a gut feeling.’’

The article also ends on this somewhat cryptic note:

He’s equally self-deprecating when he’s asked about having an obligation to his fans. ‘‘What fans? I have about three. And one of them is my mother.’’ But when he’s asked if he felt overly self-conscious when he was chosen to play Jesus, he says, simply, ‘‘No.’’ He looks at me, somewhat perplexed: ‘‘I thought: Finally, someone gets me.’’

So, not a lot there. And of course, as Phoenix himself admits in the article, an actor’s performance is often built in the editing room rather than on the set (“When I was younger I thought the idea was to construct a character, figure out its arc — now I think arcs are kind of BS. The director creates the arc.”). So it’s impossible to say much about the film based solely on Phoenix’s comments. But make of them what you will.

— The image at the top of this post shows Mara and Phoenix in Spike Jonze’s Her.

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