The Shack has found its Holy Spirit.
Haaz Sleiman may have been the first actor born and raised in the Middle East to play Jesus in a major English-language movie (in last March’s Killing Jesus), but he certainly won’t be the last. Deadline reports that Israeli actor Aviv Alush has now been hired to play Jesus in Stuart Hazeldine’s upcoming adaptation of The Shack.
Here are a few recent bits of casting news with a “faith-based” angle.
1. Sam Worthington has been cast as the lead in The Shack, Stuart Hazeldine’s adaptation of the William P. Young novel. Worthington will play a grieving father who meets God in the shack where the father’s murdered daughter was found. Octavia Spencer is already on board as one of the actors who will play God.
1. Big news regarding Stuart Hazeldine’s adaptation of The Shack: Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for The Help, has been cast as God — or at least as one of the manifestations of God. (In the book, God appears as a black woman, a Middle Eastern carpenter, and an Asian woman.) Back when Forest Whitaker was going to direct the film, it was widely buzzed that his The Butler co-star Oprah Winfrey might get this part, but Spencer is probably a better choice: more versatile, less baggage.
Big news regarding The Shack: the film adaptation of William P. Young’s novel, which was going to be directed by Forest Whitaker, is now going to be directed by Stuart Hazeldine, a Christian filmmaker that I had the pleasure of interviewing for my Christianity Today story on the Bible-movie revival earlier this year. Curiously, Deadline, which broke the news, says nothing about Whitaker or the actors he had approached for the film, such as Idris Elba and Oprah Winfrey. Looks like they’re starting over from scratch, as far as that goes?
A few months ago it was announced that Forest Whitaker was in talks to direct and star in an adaptation of The Shack, the best-selling book about a man who loses his daughter to a serial killer and then spends a weekend discussing the problem of evil with God.
Now The Tracking Board reports that Idris Elba has been offered a lead role in the film, and that Oprah Winfrey might also be in the mix. Since God appears in the book as an African-American woman, it is not surprising that some people have assumed that Oprah will be playing God.
The bigger question is who Elba will be playing. I have not read The Shack, but friends of mine who have tell me that one of the key themes in the book is how the white male protagonist learns to accept that God can appear to him as something other than a white man like him. That theme could be muted somewhat if the protagonist is a black person just like God.