A movie about Pontius Pilate

This sounds like it has the potential to be a terrific movie.  Mike Fleming has seen the script:

Brad Pitt is circling the title role in Warner Bros‘ Pontius Pilate, the drama about one of history’s most vilified figures. The studio acquired a script by Woman On Top scribe Vera Blasi with Mark Johnson producing through his Gran Via banner. Pitt is not committed, but it could well move that way quickly.

I revealed this project last summer, when the studio acquired Blasi’s script. I got hold of a draft and it’s very strong stuff and has the makings of a compelling period big budget film. This script follows the evolution of Lucius Pontius Pilate from the sensitive son of a Roman Knight into a ferocious soldier whose warrior exploits make him a general and puts him on a political track under the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Promised a military governorship in Egypt, Pilate is instead assigned by Tiberius to become the prefect of Judea, at a time when Jerusalem was a cauldron of religious tensions between various factions of the Jewish faith. Pilate veers from the political fast track into the express lane to hell and historical infamy. Rather than a straight ahead Biblical film, Blasi’s script reads almost like a Biblical era Twilight Zone episode in which a proud, capable Roman soldier gets in way over his head. His arrogance and inability to grasp the devoutness of the citizenry and its hatred for the Roman occupiers and their pagan gods leads him to make catastrophic decisions. All of this puts him in a desperate situation and in need of public approval when he is asked to decide the fate of a 33-year old rabbi accused by religious elders of claiming he is King of the Jews. Along the way, such Roman emperors including Caligula and Tiberius and New Testament figures like John the Baptist, Salome and Mary Magdalene are seen in a tale that culminates with Pilate’s fateful decision to allow Jesus Christ to be crucified.

via Brad Pitt Circling Biblical Epic Villain Turn In ‘Pontius Pilate’ At Warner Bros – Deadline.com.

This would not just be another Biblical costume drama. We know from extra-biblical sources that Pilate provoked riots for introducing what the Jews considered to be idols on his Roman standards, that the Emperor Tiberius rebuked him for unnecessarily and probably unintentionally antagonizing the people he was ruling, that he brutally suppressed acts of protest with the sword. A good movie about him would be about leadership and its failures, politics and government. A good actor–as Brad Pitt is when he wants to be–could turn this into a tragic character study. And then Jesus would come into it.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Ah, but I’ll bet you even money the subtext won’t be Christian. It’ll be a metaphor for U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

    Oh yes, congratulations on the new digs.

  • Joe

    Interest is peaked …

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  • EGK

    Too bad it isn’t using Paul Maier”s novel of years ago as its basis. It has a lot of background found in Josephus and other places while noting the proper place of Christ in the events. It shows God as the true mover of history.

  • Richard

    Anyone read a book just came out by Seth Grahame-Smith (author of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”): “Unholy Night”? Kind of a hoot–Pilate, Herod, Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus and the “wise men.”

  • tODD

    It’s curious that even in this description, they have the tale “culminat[ing] with Pilate’s fateful decision to allow Jesus Christ to be crucified”.

    From the little I know about Pilate (and that is that there is little to know), there’s no inherent reason to have a biopic of him climax there. From his viewpoint (or that of the Romans), it wasn’t likely a significant event. Much more important, apparently, was the uprising a few years later that he (again) handled bloodily, ultimately causing him to be recalled.

    So I’m intrigued by the Christian focus, even if the bulk of the film appears not to be about Jesus.

  • SKPeterson

    There is this historical fiction treatment by Paul Maier, http://historical-fiction-review.blogspot.com/2005/06/pontius-pilate-roman-perspective-of.html, which I have not read. I’m not sure how far it moves beyond his time in Palestine and toward his eventual death which is more legend than established fact.


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