Another TV show on the “lost years” of Jesus in the works

All three of this year’s Bible movies have a Gladiator connection. Exodus: Gods and Kings has that film’s director, Ridley Scott. Noah has that film’s star, Russell Crowe, and one of its screenwriters, John Logan. And Son of God — or, rather, its predecessor mini-series The Bible — marked the first time that composer Hans Zimmer and vocalist Lisa Gerrard had worked together since that film.

Now one of Gladiator’s other screenwriters is dipping his toe in the biblical waters, albeit for the small screen. Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter say David Franzoni is developing a mini-series for Fox called Nazareth, which will look at “the formative years of Jesus of Nazareth.” (One cannot help but be reminded of similar early-years series named after the protagonists’ hometowns like Smallville and Gotham.)

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Review: Gladiator (dir. Ridley Scott, 2000)

People may mock the pieties of ancient biblical epics, but when I was a lad, I watched them for the gore. Ben-Hur was a particular favorite: slaves were crushed under the collapsing hulls of their ships, Charlton Heston ran around the deck throwing spears through pirates and shoving torches in their faces, and of course there was the carnage of that famous chariot race, in which, among other things, Stephen Boyd was dragged by his own horses and trampled by the thoroughbreds behind him.

I thought of that film while watching Gladiator, the first true sword-and-sandals epic since the 1960s. Set in the second century, it follows a similar storyline, and it’s full of beheadings, stabbings, and flaming arrows; one person is even split in half by the spoke on a passing chariot wheel. Russell Crowe plays Maximus, a victorious Roman general who is betrayed by the jealous new emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) and enslaved, his family slaughtered. With nothing to live for but revenge, Maximus distinguishes himself in the arena and ultimately works his way to the big leagues in Rome, where he itches for a chance to stand before Commodus again and plunge something sharp into the emperor’s belly.

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