Risen: actors, producers discuss changes to the script, and one actor’s vow of silence, in two new profile pieces

Risen: actors, producers discuss changes to the script, and one actor’s vow of silence, in two new profile pieces January 18, 2016

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I’ve been following the development of Risen ever since it was first announced nine years ago. Now LifeSiteNews has an interview with Affirm Films chief Rich Peluso that seems to confirm some of the theories I’ve had about the film’s development.

In 2007, we were told that Paul Aiello was writing a script for a film called Risen: The Story of the First Easter that would focus on the apostle Peter as it covered the 50 days between the Resurrection and Pentecost. When the project resurfaced three years ago, Kevin Reynolds had come on board to direct the film, which was now called Resurrection and would now focus on a Roman officer who goes looking for Jesus’ body during the 40 days between the Resurrection and the Ascension.

Two years ago, the movie went into production under the working title Clavius, which is the name of the film’s Roman protagonist. And then, one year ago, Affirm Films came on board to distribute the film, and it went back to being called Risen.

In earlier interviews, Peluso has said that he saw the script for Risen several years ago and he recognized it immediately (after reading one page!) when the project found its way back to him more recently. But in his interview with LifeSiteNews, Peluso confirms that the focus of the film shifted in a big way between those two points:

“While we weren’t able to put everything together to get that off the ground [circa 2007], it re-emerged seven years later from producer Mickey Liddell, who had brought on Kevin Reynolds as director. Kevin was the one that flipped the story upside-down and told it through the eyes of an unbelieving Roman military tribune, Clavius.

“That fresh perspective is what compelled us to come on board.”

He adds that the film has been altered to meet the expectations of religious audiences, though he makes this point only with regard to the film’s “biblical violence”:

“There is nothing gratuitous in the violence that is there, and the response we’ve got from test audiences, including pastors and faith community leaders across North America, has been very positive. It is important to note that through our testing and feedback process, we did tone down the crucifixion scene and, to some degree, the key battle scene.”

Peluso never mentions the deleted subplot with Clavius’s Jewish mistress, so he gives no hint as to whether the feedback was responsible for that bit of editing too.

In other news, The Catholic World Report has also posted a feature on the film, which includes interviews with Peluso, producers Micky Liddell and Pete Shilaimon, and co-stars Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton. An excerpt from the article:

“In a way, when we finally chose this path, to tell it from his point of view, I actually thought it was exciting,” reflects Micky Lidell, on the decision to place the Roman centurion at the center of the story. “That to me is the strength of this film. That we take you to a non-believer and watch him react to the crucifixion, the ascension—all the moments we all know about and have pictured in our mind a thousand times—but to see it through an actual character I think is really exciting.”

There is also this interesting tidbit on how they approached the scenes with Jesus (or Yeshua, as he is called in the film), who is played by Cliff Curtis:

New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis, who appeared in The Whale Rider and currently stars on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, reached out to the filmmakers about six weeks before shooting was to begin about playing Christ. “He had always wanted to play Yeshua,” says Pete Shilaimon. The actor took a vow of silence while off set and not shooting his scenes. Both he and his co-star Fiennes share a pivotal scene that the two actors took very seriously. “We didn’t have any communication,” says Fiennes of their relationship in the run up to shooting their scene. “That upped the stakes so that when we did finally meet and we did finally share eye contact, I mean, we had been out there two months—we saved it for the camera.”

The film opens February 19 — exactly one month and one day from today.

In the meantime, here’s a 15-second video, condensed from the existing trailers for the film, that was posted to the film’s Facebook and Twitter accounts last week:

Check out earlier trailers and other videos here:

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