Is Hugh Jackman really starring in a movie about Saint Paul?

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Is this a genuine news story, or an April Fool’s Day story that leaked a day early?

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A.D. will cover only part of the book of Acts.

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Last year, producer Mark Burnett gave every indication that A.D.: The Bible Continues would cover the entire book of Acts and then some. He told one interviewer that the series would tell “the story of the first 40 years after the crucifixion.” (Acts itself covers only the first 30 years or so.) He told another that he and his team “planned to get to [the year] 70 as the temple falls”. (Acts itself comes to an end circa AD 62.)

And then, he said, he hoped the series would be renewed for several more years, until it reached the death of the emperor Constantine in AD 337. But lately there have been signs that the series will be much more limited in scope — at least for now.

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Our first look at the cast for The Bible follow-up series A.D.

ad-jesusAt last, we know who some (but not all) of the actors will be in A.D., the NBC series that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are producing as a follow-up to their hit miniseries The Bible.

First, People reveals that Jesus will be played by Argentinian actor Juan Pablo di Pace, and, just as Diogo Morgado’s Jesus in The Bible quickly earned the nickname “Hot Jesus”, so too People notes that di Pace is “easy-on-the-eyes”.

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The Pasolini-directed movie about St Paul that never was

So many movies have been made about Jesus, and so many of those movies have been mediocre, that it’s sometimes surprising to realize how many world-class directors have tried to get Jesus movies of their own off the ground but never succeeded. The list includes Carl Theodor Dreyer, who passed away in 1968; Gillo Pontecorvo, who passed away in 2006; and Paul Verhoeven, who published a book about Jesus in 2008 and has talked about making a movie on the subject since the 1980s, but is no closer to actually getting the film made now than he was back then.

You don’t often hear about people dying to make movies about Saint Paul, though. But it turns out that one of the best Jesus-movie makers of them all — Pier Paolo Pasolini, director of The Gospel According to St Matthew, which incidentally celebrates its 50th anniversary this year — tried to make a movie about the apostle who took Christianity to the Gentiles, and yesterday his screenplay was published in English for the first time ever.

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Bible movie of the week: The Big Fisherman (1959)

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post on The Big Fisherman (1959), one of the more obscure Bible movies ever released by a major Hollywood studio.

As far as I know, the film, which was originally distributed by Walt Disney’s Buena Vista division, has never been officially released to home video, at least not in North America. But I had read a bit about it in books on the history of Jesus movies — the title refers to the apostle Peter — and I was intrigued by the information I found at the Internet Movie Database.

For one thing, the film is based on a novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, who also wrote The Robe, which 20th Century Fox turned into a much more famous film in 1953. For another, it seemed that this film might rely on the secular account of Herod Antipas and John the Baptist given to us by Josephus, which no other film I could think of had ever done.

And what did the apostle Peter have to do with any of this? I had no idea, but I was curious to find out.

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Bible movie of the week: Jesus, the Spirit of God (2007)

Christians aren’t the only ones who hold Jesus in high esteem. Muslims do too, though they have radically different beliefs about him — and at least one movie has actually tried to dramatize those beliefs the same way other Bible movies have dramatized their own filmmakers’ beliefs.

But wait… is it right to call Jesus, the Spirit of God, an Iranian film produced in 2007, a “Bible movie”? Is not much of the film based on the Koran and other post-biblical sources, such as the late-medieval document known as the Gospel of Barnabas, rather than on the Bible itself?

Well, yes, the film is based on those other documents, but I’d still say it counts as a “Bible movie” on some level, inasmuch as many of its narrative elements can be traced back through those sources to the Bible itself. If we can accept Ben-Hur, which was based on a novel, or The Passion of the Christ, which was based on the visions of a 19th-century nun, as “Bible movies” because they contain elements that go back to the scriptures, then we can certainly put this film under the same broad umbrella.

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