From Hazel Motes to Mel Gibson

In defending The Passion of the Christ, Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News has cited Flannery O’Connor‘s remark, “To the hard of hearing you shout.” As noted in passing by most movie critics, The Passion has one clear tie to O’Connor.

Benedict Fitzgerald, coauthor of The Passion‘s screenplay, also wrote the screenplay for director John Huston’s film version of Wise Blood, O’Connor’s novel in which the self-blinded preacher Hazel Motes founds the Church Without Christ.

It’s a long way, both in years and in subject matter, from Wise Blood (1979) to The Passion, and a few writers have filled in some blanks.

Movie critic Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer describes Fitzgerald as “an erudite Italian- and Swiss-educated screenwriter who is also a conservative Catholic.” Rea interviewed Fitzgerald as part of “Gibson’s Gethsemane,” a nearly 2,000-word feature story:

“Mel and I had similar experiences of veering off toward the edge of an abyss. You know, caught up and seduced by all the secular temptations,” says Fitzgerald, whose father, the poet Robert Fitzgerald, wrote the definitive translations of works by Homer, Virgil and Sophocles. “I think both he and I had reached the age where we’re aware of how secularization has, perhaps, blinded us to some other aspects of our own nature that need to be fed.”

“I had come back to my Catholic faith and immediately felt that my entire life was in preparation for this project,” Fitzgerald told Phil Boatwright in a story distributed by the Southern Baptist Covnention’s Baptist Press. “Mel contributed to my returning to my faith. I can now pray un-self-consciously, as a result of working with him.”

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  • amy

    …son of Robert Fitzgerald, as in Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, two of Flannery O’Connor’s closest friends. Fascinating.

  • Tom Kelty

    I think we all share a natural repugnance as to how Christ suffered. I thought I was tough and could handle hard issues, but I find myself avoiding this film. I have read numerous reviews and the disagreement about anti-semitism will rage until only God knows when. I will crank up my courage and see it if only to help me think more clearly about this Loving God willingly taking on the punishment for the personal sins of each and everyone of His creatures. He did all this for sinners. He could have annihilated His tormentors but chose to suffer for us so that we might learn to beg forgiveness and to forgive those who offend us. How we struggle to keep busy so we can avoid thinking about such truths.