Will Idris Elba and Oprah Winfrey co-star in The Shack?

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.

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Religion and comedy in the Sam Kinison biopic

Five years ago, I wrote a short blog post noting that HBO was developing a biopic on Sam Kinison, the Pentecostal preacher turned politically-incorrect stand-up comic.

Now, today, comes news that this project, which already had a few producers attached to it, finally has a director and an actor — and it turns out nearly everyone involved has mixed religion with comedy in one form or another in the past.

First, one of the producers is Tom Shadyac, director of Bruce Almighty (2003) and its sequel Evan Almighty (2007); more recently, he has documented his own personal spiritual quest in a film called I Am (2010).

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Interview: Tom Shadyac (Evan Almighty, 2007)

LOS ANGELES, CA — It has been four years since Bruce Almighty conquered the box office, and a lot has happened at the intersection of faith and film since then.

Many Christians were leery of the film when they heard that it starred Jim Carrey as a man who is endowed with supernatural powers after he complains that God isn’t doing a good enough job of running the world. But many Christians were pleasantly surprised to discover that, despite its bawdy humour, the movie raised serious questions about love, free will, and the need to submit to God’s plan for our lives.

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Interviews: Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, Wanda Sykes, Tom Shadyac (Evan Almighty, 2007)

On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon on the Universal Studios back lot, several journalists are preparing to interview the cast of Evan Almighty, many with one question on their minds:

Where’s God?

Most everyone here is impressed by the performance of Morgan Freeman, who is back playing God four years after he, um, created the role in Bruce Almighty. But Freeman himself is nowhere to be found. This is not too surprising, as Freeman is a busy actor whose talents are constantly in demand; but it does mean the most authoritative voice in the movie won’t be here to chat it up.

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Interview: Tom Shadyac (Evan Almighty, 2007)

LOS ANGELES, CA — Tom Shadyac made his name as the director and producer of such lowbrow comedies as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Nutty Professor. Then he took the bathroom humour in a more spiritual, if occasionally schmaltzy, direction with Liar Liar, Patch Adams and the phenomenally successful Bruce Almighty.

All of Shadyac’s previous films were rated PG-13 in the United States, but his newest film — Evan Almighty, in which God tells a man to build an ark, just like Noah — is rated a family-friendly PG. Shadyac, sitting down with several journalists on the Universal Studios backlot, is eager to let everyone know that the film is “safe.”

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