Today marks the tenth anniversary of the theatrical release of The Nativity Story — the first attempt by a big-ish Hollywood studio to replicate the box-office success that Mel Gibson had found two years earlier with The Passion of the Christ.
The Passion of The Christ was an independent movie, paid for entirely out of Mel Gibson’s pocket. The Prince of Egypt was an animated film that emphasized the common ground between Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Last Temptation of Christ was a low-budget art-house flick based on a heretical novel.
You would have to go back at least as far as King David, the mid-1980s box-office flop starring Richard Gere, to find another live-action movie produced by a major Hollywood studio and based directly on the Bible. And you would have to go back even further — to the bathrobe epics of the 1960s, at least — to find a mainstream biblical movie that was as blatantly Christian as The Nativity Story.
LOS ANGELES, CA — It has been nearly three years since The Passion of the Christ proved there was an audience for biblical movies with a strong Christian theme. Now, Hollywood is finally beginning to catch up — and what better way to follow a film about the death of Jesus than to make a film about his birth?
The Nativity Story, which comes to theatres December 1, is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, a former production designer who made her directorial debut three years ago on Thirteen, an Oscar-nominated, R-rated film about the troubled relationship between a teenaged girl and her single mother. Hardwicke followed this with Lords of Dogtown, a dynamic look at several legendary skateboarders in the 1970s.
Sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll were all prominent features of Hardwicke’s first two films, so it might seem like a stretch that she would then go on to tackle a rather pious account of the virginal conception of Christ. But the film does star 16-year-old New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes, who became the youngest best-actress Oscar nominee in history two years ago for her performance in Whale Rider; and Hardwicke says the new film actually fits quite nicely with her previous youth-oriented movies.