Newsbites: Anne Rice! Nativity! Compass!

Newsbites: Anne Rice! Nativity! Compass! June 29, 2006

Time for another batch of quickies.

1. Vampire novelist Anne Rice made news not too long ago when she wrote Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and openly talked about her return to faith. Now Variety reports that she has signed the inevitable book deal — with a brand-new Christian company!

Good News Holdings, formed last fall to produce faith-based content in multimedia formats, has made its first significant movie deal by acquiring Rice bestseller “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.”

Rice, who adapted her gothic novel “Interview With the Vampire,” is penning the “Christ” script. No studio is attached yet, but the goal is a Christmas 2007 release.

L.A.-based Good News Holdings is run by George Barna, a bestselling author and researcher of Christian trends. . . .

Rice was very vocal when “Interview With the Vampire” was made into a movie, initially disparaging the casting of Tom Cruise before changing her mind.

“Any agony or joy I suffered on ‘Interview,’ multiply it by 100 because it is just so crucial to me that this story get done right,” Rice said. As for the current crop of faith-based Hollywood projects, Rice loved “The Passion of the Christ” but not “The Da Vinci Code.”

“I thought ‘Passion’ was magnificent,” she said. “‘Da Vinci Code’ I found to be profoundly offensive and tragically disconnected from the world of those who believe in Christ. The idea of people running around, willing to kill one another over whether Jesus was married, that was ridiculous and appalling. This was old fashion gothic horror having a field day with the Church.”

And who should play Jesus? Last month, according to Matt Page, she was hoping for Johnny Depp! Oh, but wait — this book is the first in a projected four-part series, and only depicts Christ when he was a young boy, right? Okay, Depp will have to wait.

2. New Line Cinema’s The Nativity Story now has a website, with a teaser trailer and a behind-the-scenes featurette. It is interesting to hear screenwriter Mike Rich say that the only source materials he had to work with are the chapters at the beginning of Matthew and Luke, since it is obvious from the script that he has turned to other sources, too — otherwise Mary’s parents wouldn’t be named Joachim and Anna. It is rather reminiscent of how Mel Gibson frequently talked about the gospels when promoting The Passion, but was less forthcoming about Sr. Anne Catherine Emmerich and the others whose visions heavily influenced his screenplay.

UPDATE: I just noticed that the website reveals another member of the Nativity cast: Hiam Abbass, who played Saïd’s mother in Paradise Now (2005), the wife of one of the Palestinian targets in Munich (2005), and a middle-aged woman who discovers belly-dancing in Satin Rouge (2002) — to name the three films of hers that I have seen — is playing Mary’s mother Anna.

3. While New Line produces its ultra-devout Nativity movie, the studio has also announced a start date for The Golden Compass, the first installment of Philip Pullman’s anti-Christian ‘His Dark Materials‘ trilogy. Cameras are set to roll on September 4.

4. USA Today has a new article on Evan Almighty, complete with new photos of a Noah-like Steve Carell building his ark.

5. David Poland covers a film called Hot Chicks, which is actually a series of nine short films all based on Jack T. Chick tracts. I would love to see this anthology, but it sounds like the film may get next to no distribution, due to certain legal problems (e.g., Chick didn’t exactly give permission for his works to be adapted).

6. USA Today reports that historians are already taking aim at Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. The film comes out in five or six months.

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