Paul Verhoeven — the man behind such sci-fi hits as RoboCop and Starship Troopers, plus such sexually charged films as Basic Instinct and Showgirls — has been talking about making a movie about Jesus for almost thirty years now, ever since he first attended a meeting of the Jesus Seminar in 1988. The subject came up again this week when Verhoeven — whose subversive critical hit Elle gets a limited release in U.S. theatres today — spoke to ComingSoon.net to promote his newest film.
The Charlton Heston version of Ben-Hur was filmed partly at the Cinecitta Studios in Rome, so it comes as no surprise that the new version will be filmed there, too, as Variety reports today. The four-month shoot is set to begin in February.
More interesting is the fact that the new film will also be shot partly in Matera, the Italian town that was thought to be “a shocking example of European poverty” back when Pier Paolo Pasolini shot The Gospel According to St Matthew there in the 1960s, but has since become something of a tourist spot — not to mention a location for several other Bible movies.
The National Geographic Channel’s adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus is now filming in Morocco, and thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, we now know who many of the actors are — and they’re an eclectic bunch, to be sure.
In keeping with other recent efforts to depict Jesus as something other than a blonde-haired, blue-eyed European, the part of Jesus will be played by Haaz Sleiman, an actor born in Lebanon who is perhaps best-known for playing a Syrian immigrant in Tom McCarthy’s The Visitor.
Herod the Great, on the other hand, will be played by Kelsey Grammer, who doesn’t seem like a particularly Middle Eastern kind of guy to me. (The fact that he’s best known for his comedic roles on Frasier and The Simpsons doesn’t help!)
Every now and then, someone embarks on a quixotic quest to film the entire Bible, word for word. In the 1970s, the Genesis Project got as far as filming the books of Genesis and Luke, the latter of which was condensed into the Jesus film that is now distributed by Campus Crusade. More recently, there was the Visual Bible, which produced adaptations of Matthew and Acts in the 1990s and then, after a change of ownership, an adaptation of The Gospel of John in 2003.
Yesterday I came across what seems like a more modest project: an attempt to film all four gospels under the collective title the Lumo Project.
Four years after I first mentioned that a film version of the Langston Hughes musical Black Nativity was in the works — and three months after cameras finally started rolling on the adaptation — we now, at last, have some images from the film, courtesy of USA Today. Alas, all four of the pictures in question seem to be set pretty firmly within the real world, so we’ll just have to wait to see the “dream sequence” that re-tells the story of the birth of Jesus. The article that accompanies the new images does describe at least one part of that sequence, though: