Sam Neill to play Josephus in The Dovekeepers

samneillVarious news sites are reporting today that Sam Neill has joined the cast of The Dovekeepers, the upcoming miniseries about four Jewish women who live in Masada during the Roman siege of that fortress in the first century AD.

Neill will play Josephus, the Jewish historian whose first-hand account of the Jewish-Roman War is our primary source for it. (Josephus did not fight at Masada himself, but he did lead Jewish armies against the Romans in Galilee until he surrendered and defected to the other side, serving the Romans as a translator when they destroyed Jerusalem.)

Josephus does not appear to be a character in Alice Hoffman’s original novel — his name doesn’t come up at all (except in a note on the author’s historical research) when I search inside the book at Amazon or Google Books — but apparently the miniseries will show him interviewing the few adults who survive the siege.

Many Bible films, from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments to Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s Son of God, have padded out their stories with material from Josephus’s writings, but Josephus himself hasn’t been depicted all that often. So this would probably be the highest-profile dramatization of the character yet.

Neill has played his share of historical roles over the years, but to my knowledge, he has never appeared in anything quasi-biblical before. (The siege of Masada isn’t actually in the Bible, but it began in Judea only a decade or so after the events of the Book of Acts, so.) He did, however, play the Antichrist in The Final Conflict.

The second Exodus: Gods and Kings trailer: a shot-by-shot analysis (lots of swords, a prophecy, and a family)

vlcsnap-2014-10-01-12h49m26s72The first full trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings came out today, and to judge by what we see here, the film will have bits of Gladiator, The Prince of Egypt, Schindler’s List and even The Matrix.

That’s right, The Matrix. Or at any rate, that’s what I am reminded of when Ben Kingsley shows up and goes all Morpheus on Christian Bale’s Moses, telling him that he’s always felt something was wrong, that he has been deceived his whole life, and that he is the fulfillment of a prophecy regarding a deliverer.

It’s tempting to think that this “prophecy” business is just another movie cliché — it’s certainly not there in the biblical version of Moses’ story — but the first-century historian Josephus actually mentions such a prophecy and says the Hebrew babies were drowned in the Nile around the time of Moses’ birth because of it.

Cecil B. DeMille included this prophecy (and its consequences) in the prologue to The Ten Commandments — and although other characters refer to it later, there is no scene in which anyone actually discusses the prophecy with Moses. So Exodus is unique in having a mentor introduce the hero to his destiny like this.

Apart from that, the trailer mostly sells action, action, action — if the teaser had lots of horses, this one has lots of swords — but it also touches on Moses’ relationships with his “brother” Ramses, his wife Zipporah and his sons Gershom and Eliezer.

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The Bible sequel A.D. gets the green light for spring 2015

I was just finishing my last post, which partly concerned Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s recent decision to produce a mini-series about the siege of Masada for CBS, when word came over the internet that NBC had greenlit one of their other projects: a 12-hour sequel to The Bible that was once called A.D.: Beyond the Bible but now simply goes by the name A.D.

I included a brief link to that press release in my previous post, but I think it merits a blog post all its own, since it includes a few new details about the mini-series.

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Quick updates on Peter Gabriel and the Bible sequel

A bit more information has trickled in regarding two items that I blogged in the last few days.

First, The Hollywood Reporter has clarified that Peter Gabriel’s contribution to the anthology film Words with Gods will consist mainly of music for the animated interstitials that play between the short films, and not of music for the short films themselves. Gabriel will also contribute a new song to close the film and give it “a final message,” according to producer Lucas Akoskin.

Second, and more extensively, The Hollywood Reporter has also got a few new quotes from The Bible producer Mark Burnett that hint at the direction the recently-announced sequel to that mini-series will take.

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The Bible sequel gets the green light — but what is it about?

Deadline reports that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey formally announced today that the sequel to The Bible will be a mini-series with the working title A.D.: Beyond the Bible. And instead of telling more stories from across the entire Bible, it sounds like the new series will focus exclusively on the period covered by the Book of Acts, with a heavy helping of secular history courtesy of historians like Josephus.

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The Bible: fourth episode, first impressions

Alas, there was no Transfiguration in this episode. But there was quite a bit of other stuff that I found interesting, for better and for worse, so here again, as before, are my first impressions.

The pacing, redux. It says something about this show that, when it finally devotes an entire two-hour episode to a single protagonist, it still feels kind of rushed, like it’s over far too quickly and we haven’t had a chance to really get to know anyone.

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