A.D. gets a new title and trailer, producers meet the press

ad-peter-johnFirst it was A.D.: Beyond the Bible, then it was just plain A.D. Now the NBC series — produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey as a follow-up to their History Channel miniseries The Bible — has a subtitle again. As of yesterday, it is now called A.D.: The Bible Continues.

Or does the name go back earlier than that? I see now that the first trailer, posted back in November, has the full title, but I don’t recall seeing it in any articles about the series until yesterday, and it could have been added to the trailer later. I also note that part of the URL for the series’ main website has changed from “ad” — which is what it was when I linked to it four weeks ago — to “ad-the-bible-continues”.

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Amazon gets into the Bible genre with the series Kingdoms

rodericktaylor-bruceataylorIs the world ready for two TV shows based on the Book of Acts? Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have been developing A.D., their follow-up to The Bible, for over a year now, though there has been very little news about it since it was first announced. And now it may have competition. Deadline reports that Ian Sander and Kim Moses, producers of shows like Reckless and Ghost Whisperer, have set up a drama series at Amazon called Kingdoms, which will tell “the biblical saga of the Apostles – 12 ordinary men who clashed with the power and wealth of three kingdoms to change the world forever.” The show will be written by Roderick Taylor and his son Bruce, who have a bit of experience with “faith-based” material, as they wrote the script for The Surrogate, a thriller based on a book by Christian novelist Kathryn Mackel that Christian filmmaker Ralph Winter was going to produce a few years ago. Their best-known produced screenplay is probably The Brave One, a Death Wish-style vigilante flick starring Jodie Foster.

The Pasolini-directed movie about St Paul that never was

So many movies have been made about Jesus, and so many of those movies have been mediocre, that it’s sometimes surprising to realize how many world-class directors have tried to get Jesus movies of their own off the ground but never succeeded. The list includes Carl Theodor Dreyer, who passed away in 1968; Gillo Pontecorvo, who passed away in 2006; and Paul Verhoeven, who published a book about Jesus in 2008 and has talked about making a movie on the subject since the 1980s, but is no closer to actually getting the film made now than he was back then.

You don’t often hear about people dying to make movies about Saint Paul, though. But it turns out that one of the best Jesus-movie makers of them all — Pier Paolo Pasolini, director of The Gospel According to St Matthew, which incidentally celebrates its 50th anniversary this year — tried to make a movie about the apostle who took Christianity to the Gentiles, and yesterday his screenplay was published in English for the first time ever.

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The Ascension of Christ in film: literalism, symbolism, etc.

Today is the Feast of the Ascension, when Christians remember how Jesus was taken up into heaven 40 days after his Resurrection. It’s one of the stranger bits in the Gospels — both difficult to understand, given our modern cosmology, and difficult to pull off visually — and most of what we know about it actually comes from the Book of Acts. So it’s not too surprising that most films about Jesus have tended to skip this episode.

Nevertheless, a few films have depicted the Ascension, often by mixing it with elements from other stories in the gospels, and even those that don’t depict it have often made a point of ending on a note that suggests Jesus has transcended this life in some way that parallels the Ascension. Here are a few examples.

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Quick updates on A.D. and The Dovekeepers

Son of God producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett gave lots of interviews in the days leading up to that film’s theatrical release, and in a few of those interviews, they dropped a few hints about their follow-up projects A.D. and The Dovekeepers, both of which will also take place in first-century Palestine. Here’s a quick summary of what they’ve said.

First, in chronological terms, A.D. will start at the crucifixion of Jesus and cover the next 40 years of Jewish and Christian history, until the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, while The Dovekeepers will start with the destruction of the Temple and continue through to the Roman siege of Masada, which ended in AD 73. It’s not clear whether the two shows will air in chronological order — they’re being produced for different networks — but those are the historical periods they will cover.

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Darwin Shaw on playing St Peter (and a Lego Bond villain)

The apostle Peter is not the first biblical character that Darwin Shaw has played in his decade or so as an actor. You can see him briefly as Adam, in a new prologue to the Campus Crusade film Jesus (1979) that was shot a few years ago, and you can also see him as the “Semitic Jesus” in Gospel of Thomas (2009), an interactive adaptation of the Gnostic text that allows you to toggle between different actors. (Another actor plays the “Western Jesus”.)

But Peter is easily the biggest role of this sort that Shaw has tackled so far. He appears in all five of the New Testament-themed episodes in last year’s mini-series The Bible, and he will appear again this week in Son of God, the big-screen movie that consists mostly of footage from that mini-series but also includes a few new scenes.

I spoke to Shaw — whose credits also include Casino Royale (2006), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), John Carter (2012) and a deleted scene from Prometheus (2012) — by phone last week while he was in Los Angeles to promote Son of God.

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