“Drug dealers, money launderers, and kidnappers”: Esquire looks at what happened to Benedict Fitzgerald and his proposed prequel to The Passion of the Christ

benedictfitzgeraldThe Passion of the Christ was such a huge hit ten years ago that many people wanted a sequel. Mel Gibson never showed any interest in making one, but his screenwriter Benedict Fitzgerald certainly did — or, to be more precise, Fitzgerald proposed making a prequel about the mother of Jesus, which he initially called Myriam, Mother of the Christ.

I have been keeping tabs on this film ever since it was first announced in January 2007, but the film itself has never been made. Instead, there have been persistent rumours and reports — the title has changed a couple times, and different actors were rumoured to be up for the part of Herod the Great, etc. — and now comes the wildest, craziest report of them all. Esquire magazine posted a story yesterday with the headline ‘How the Mother of All Sequels Crashed and Burned’, and it explains in some detail how Fitzgerald’s ambitions were derailed by “drug dealers, money launderers, and kidnappers”. It also gets into his lawsuit against Gibson.

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Christ the Lord gets an Easter 2016 release date

christthelordoutofegyptChrist the Lord now has a release date. Focus Features has announced that its adaptation of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, the Anne Rice novel about the early years of Jesus, will come to theatres on March 23, 2016.

That’s almost four weeks after the release date for Timur Bekmambetov’s remake of Ben-Hur.

It also happens to be the Wednesday before Good Friday on the Western calendar. So, like this year’s Heaven Is for Real and next year’s Hillsong United documentary, Christ the Lord will tie in to the Easter weekend but give the holiday itself a bit of breathing room.

The film is being directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh from a script he co-wrote with his wife Betty. No actors have been hired yet, but the filming is set to take place at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome and in Matera, a southern Italian town that has appeared in other Bible movies such as The Gospel according to St. Matthew (1964), King David (1985), The Passion of the Christ (2004) and The Nativity Story (2006).

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The Battle of the Bible Films — the article’s up!

My article on the Bible-movie revival is now up at the Christianity Today website; it will also be in the print edition of the magazine. The article looks at the fitful attempts made by the studios to cash in on the success of The Passion of the Christ since it came out a decade ago, it looks at the three Bible movies coming out this year — Son of God, Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings — and it looks at what might be next if Noah and Exodus are big-enough hits. It also includes soundbites from publicist Jonathan Bock, director Darren Aronofsky (Noah) and screenwriters Stuart Hazeldine (Paradise Lost, Gods and Kings) and Barbara Nicolosi (Mary).

Box office update: Noah slips in N. America but stays strong overseas, while God’s Not Dead sets a new record

As expected, Noah is faring quite better overseas than it is in North America.

The film, which opened two weeks ago, is estimated to have earned $7.5 million in North America between Friday and today, bringing its total up to $84.9 million.

That represents a slip of 56.3% since last weekend, which is a steeper drop than Son of God had in its own third weekend last month. Both films dropped about 60%, give or take a percentage point, in their second weekends; but Son of God dropped only an additional 46.7% in its third weekend.

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On asking questions, not assuming answers, about Noah

Brian Godawa has now updated his post on the Noah serpent — twice! — in response to posts of mine in which I debunked the claim that Noah is Gnostic and tried to untangle just what the snakeskin represents, both in Judaism and within the film specifically.

Brian’s a good guy, and he’s done a lot of research into the Noah story, and I have found his posts on that subject very informative. But when it comes to his analysis of Darren Aronofsky’s film, it seems to me that he has certain blind spots, or that he insists too strongly on filtering his experience of the film through a certain worldview without fully engaging with the film on its own terms.

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Noah news round-up: New images, a Mexico City premiere, a Muslim ban, some unusual merchandising, and more

For a film with no Latin American stars, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah sure seems to be getting a fairly major push in the Latin American market. In an earlier post, I looked at a Brazilian trailer that seemed to be different from all the other trailers that had been released up to that point; and now, the Brazilian website Cinemarcado has a bunch of new images from the film. In addition, Aronofsky himself has tweeted that the film will have its world premiere in Mexico City this coming Monday.

One region where the film might not get so much love is the Middle East. The biblical Noah is regarded as a prophet by Muslims, and not just any prophet but as one of the top five, along with Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed — and today it was reported that Al-Azhar in Egypt is urging Muslim authorities to ban the film:
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