Cyrus the Great — a Persian king ready for his close-up?

Last week, the LA Weekly posted an item about the Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient Persian artifact that is currently touring American museums.

The blog post notes that the Cylinder is widely regarded as the first known declaration of human rights, and it goes on to suggest that Americans of Iranian descent will be “eager for the opportunity to remember and embrace a noble part of their identity that’s not yet been desecrated by Hollywood (we’re looking at you, 300)”.

This got me thinking: how often has Cyrus been depicted in film? (300 took place about 50 years after his death, during the reign of Xerxes.) To what extent has his role in history — as one of the more enlightened conquerors of ancient times — been recognized on the big screen, or on the small screen for that matter?

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Quick updates on two of next year’s big Bible movies

Son of God, the big-screen movie spun off from this year’s hit mini-series The Bible, finally has a release date: February 28, 2014.

Not coincidentally, one assumes, that’s just a few days before Lent: in the Eastern churches next year, Lent begins on Monday March 3, while in the Western churches it begins on Ash Wednesday or March 5.

A press release announcing the release date confirms that the film will feature “never-before-seen footage” and that it will cover the life of Jesus “from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection.”

The release date is also precisely one month before the release date of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. And while the studio has yet to release any footage from that film, it seems that there has already been at least one test screening of it.

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Kevin Reynolds to direct latest Resurrection-themed movie

You can’t make a hit film or TV show without inspiring legions of imitators, so it’s no surprise that, when The Bible racked up some record TV ratings earlier this year, a gaggle of filmmakers announced that they were going to make biblical movies of their own.

In one blog post back then, I noted that various producers were developing no less than four separate movies that will deal specifically with the 40 days between the Resurrection of Jesus and his Ascension into heaven — and that’s not counting the big-screen version of The Bible itself (which comes out next year and will reportedly emphasize the Resurrection as well).

Now a sixth film has entered the fray — and it may be a project that was first put in motion during the previous Bible-movie development craze, which followed yet another hugely successful Bible film, i.e. The Passion of the Christ (2004).

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Newsbites: Quick updates on two upcoming Jesus movies

Last month, I noted that hyper-stylized scifi-fantasy action-movie specialist Timur Bekmambetov was in talks to direct MGM’s latest version of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (the studio previously adapted Lew Wallace’s novel in 1925 and 1959; other studios made their own adaptations in 1907 and 2010). Today, Deadline reports that the studio and the director have “closed their deal”. There is no word yet on when the studio hopes to release the film, or what sort of angle Bekmambetov will approach the material from. But last month it was said that the studio felt Bekmambetov had “a strong grasp on the story’s themes of revenge and redemption.” And presumably the studio is hoping that the three — count ’em, three! — Bible movies coming to theatres next year will whet everyone’s appetite for even more entries in this genre.

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Newsbites: The spin-offs and re-hashes edition!

Remember when there was talk of turning The Tales of Beedle the Bard into a movie? Well, it turns out the inevitable Harry Potter spin-off movie will actually be based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, one of two Hogwarts “textbooks” that J.K. Rowling released in 2001. The book was credited to Newt Scamander, a wizard born in 1897 who worked on his book between 1918 and 1927 — and it sounds like the film will take place during this period.

It’s worth noting that Rowling herself will write the screenplay for this film; all of the previous movies were based on her books but were adapted by other writers. Also, the first film in this new series will be set in New York; it is tempting to suggest that Rowling has finally given in to studio pressure to Americanize her very-British series, but Scamander supposedly traveled “across five continents” to research his book, so this could very easily turn out to be a globe-trotting series like the James Bond or Indiana Jones films.

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The Bible producers ponder theatrical distribution offers

Between Noah and Exodus, I’ve already mentioned here a few times that next year could mark the first time since the early ’60s that two big-budget Bible movies have been released to theatres within the same calendar year. But there’s a third film waiting in the wings, too, and it just happens to be the only one of the three that is based on the New Testament rather than the Old. That film is Son of God, the 135-minute movie extracted from the Jesus sections of The Bible — and Variety reports that producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have hired industry veteran Tom Sherak to advise them as they consider offers from various distributors. Variety says some sort of deal should be finalized “in the next few weeks, if not sooner,” and the current plan is to release the film in March, “to coincide with Easter” — though Easter is actually on April 20 next year, so it might be more accurate to say the release would coincide with Lent. Incidentally, Noah is currently set to come out March 28, so if Son of God really is released during Lent, you could see two mainstream Bible movies playing at multiplexes everywhere simultaneously — which would have to be some kind of first. (Exodus, for its part, won’t come out until December.)


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