It turns out director Cyrus Nowrasteh and producer Chris Columbus aren’t the only filmmakers who have been stumping for The Young Messiah. I now know of interviews with at least two other people who were involved with the making of the film, including co-star Sean Bean. Check ’em out below the jump.
First, Sean Bean spoke to the Orange County Register:
“The Young Messiah” in many ways is a subtle story, a gentle telling of Jesus’ slow realization of the truth of his life. Its open quality was another aspect of the production that attracted Bean.
“I’m Christian, so I’m familiar with the stories, though I’m no theologian by any means,” he says. “It’s always interesting as an adult to go back on things and look at things in a fresh light. Because you’re taught things at an earlier age and they’re not really presented in an interesting manner.
“I think this kind of brings this story to life, and it’s actually very credible,” Bean says. “You know, rather than having it drummed into you or having it taught, it leaves it open for you to make up your mind. It’s very open-minded.
“So I think that’s one of the good qualities and beauty of the film – that it’s not a kind of sanctimonious, kind of pontificating deal with religion about what we should believe, what we should not believe. It’s the story that’s presented for the viewer to make up their own mind.” . . .
With its opening two weeks before Easter, “The Young Messiah” is perfectly timed for Christians. But Bean says he thinks the film can appeal to people of all faiths, or no faith at all.
“It doesn’t beat you over the head with a stick about religion,” he says. “It’s not forcing you to believe anything. It’s just a very, very interesting story, which I happen to believe is a true story.”
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Business Journal profiles one of the film’s investors:
Ahwatukee businessman Bill Andrew has a vested interest in the premiere of “The Young Messiah,” an $18.6 million movie debuting on screens Friday nationally.
Andrew is a principal and co-founder of Ocean Blue Entertainment LLC, the Santa Monica, California-based company financing the film. Originally minority investors in another company financing the film, Ocean Blue took over in 2013 after realizing the company was in trouble.
“We basically pulled the plug on ‘The Young Messiah’ at that time and spent 20 months restructuring the company,” Andrew said. They were able to reduce the movie’s budget from $40 million to $18.6 million. . . .
Andrew said he doesn’t practice a religion, and he hadn’t thought about faith in a long time prior to financing the film.
“This movie has brought me back to that,” he said. “Once you see the film, it’s hard not to contemplate faith. It’s a movie that challenges you to think about Jesus and think about Christianity. For those who are faithful, it’s a faith-affirming film.”
If I find any other non-Nowrasteh/Columbus interviews, I will add them to this post.
Update: Anne Rice, who wrote the novel the film is based on (Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt), spoke to evangelical historical-Jesus scholar Ben Witherington III:
ANNE: The Satan character in the film —- an expansion of the Satan whom Jesus encounters in a dream in the novel — was the idea of Cyrus and Betsy Nowrasteh who wrote the script. But I do find it very much in keeping with active medieval beliefs — played out in Medieval religious plays — that Satan was suspicious of Jesus from the time of His birth and saw Jesus’ crucifixion as a triumph. I was influenced by the medieval theological beliefs when I presented Satan in Jesus’ dream as unable to figure out who or what Jesus is, and unable to see the future. . . .
ANNE: Allow me to make two interesting points regarding the child Jesus performing miracles. It has been pointed out that when Mary urges her Son to help at the marriage feast of Cana, she seems to know that He CAN do something miraculous. Some have speculated that this must mean Jesus manifested His power earlier — perhaps in childhood Another thing I’d like to point out: in the Gospel of Mark, we know that when Jesus encountered the hemorrhaging woman, “He felt the power go out of Him” and He did not know who touched Him. This suggested to me that the child Jesus might have had occasion to experience the same thing….the power going out of Him without a lot of conscious control. —- Of course your point about the Spirit entering into Jesus when He was Baptized is an excellent one. On the other hand, Jesus was God from the moment of conception, the pre-existent Word, so perhaps He always possessed the power to work miracles.
Rice also wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter on the film.
March 17 update: The Examiner spoke to composer John Debney:
Mark Morton: How does it feel to revisit a world that you have already painted?
John Debney: The world is such a rich, wonderful world, in the sense of these instruments and the place and time, that I really jumped at the chance. Plus, working with this great director friend of mine, Cyrus Nowrasteh, who had directed “The Stoning of Soraya M.,” there was just no negative to it. I just thought it would be a real joy to go back, re-immerse myself in that music, and that’s what we did. The scores for “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Young Messiah” are loving cousins.
You can read more about the soundtrack (and see a preview video) here.
March 20 update: Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh wrote a guest column for The Wrap on ‘How to Write a Movie With Your Husband and Live to Tell About It’.
March 23 update: Alice Cooper (!) interviewed Anne Rice for Billboard:
Your book Christ the Lord Out of Egypt was the basis for the film The Young Messiah. In the co-writing of this movie many references were used from the Bible. Was the Apocrypha also used as a source?Everyone puts their faith in something or someone. Where would you say your faith lives?
Actually very little of the apocrypha was used in the novel, only the legends regarding Jesus' childhood in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which is NOT gnostic and contains legends that influenced Christian art for centuries. Nothing gnostic was used in the book whatsoever. I researched the First Century for something like ten years, off and on, probing history, archaeology, anthropology, and the bible, of course, the bible again and again and the early historians, Josephus and Philo of Alexandria. I sought to write a biblically sound and authentic novel about Jesus as a child that would bring Him alive for people, presenting a fictive day to day life for him. I wanted people to hear his laughter, smell the dust in the streets of Nazareth, to see the world in which Jesus lived; I wanted people to have a sense of Him as a real little boy, surrounded by mysteries — the Jesus whose birth was celebrated by angels singing to shepherds, the Jesus whose birth brought Magi from the East, the Jesus whose mother had been visited by an angel…. The bible mattered infinitely more to me than the apocrypha.
My faith lives in my novels, of course. It lives in every word I write. It lives in my novels about Jesus. Though I've moved away from institutional Christianity and organized religion — and all its theological strife — my devotion to Jesus remains fierce. My faith blazes in my vampire novels, and in the Witching Hour series, and even in the erotica I've written. I believe that people are basically good as Anne Frank put it; I believe the creation is basically good and beautiful; I believe that sex is beautiful and good. I believe our capacity to love, to know pleasure, to want to live lives of meaning — all this reflects the existence of a loving and personal Creator. I dream of all things human being reconciled in our ethical institutions and moral institutions; I dream of all of us being redeemed in every way. This is why the story of the Incarnation is so important to me, the story of Jesus being born amongst us, growing up amongst us, working and sweating and struggling as we do, and dying amongst us before he rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. I write about outsiders seeking redemption in one form or another and always will.
March 26 update: Sara Lazarro, who plays Mary in the film, wrote an article for The Washington Times on what the experience was like:
I am not a mother — not yet. I definitely hope to be one, one day. Actually, I recall that on-set, I was one of the few adult actors who wasn’t a parent yet. Nonetheless, I asked myself: What would I do if I were the mother to such a special child, an empirical witness of a miracle of God, guided by faith, aware of her child’s mission, but unsure of the difficulties and adversities that surely were awaiting for us ahead? The answers I had were varied and layered, but they ultimately came down to my instincts, and it culminated in a sense of love, trust and faith. As a mother, I would do all I can in my power, in love and in grace, to protect and support my child — together with my husband. The relationship that Vincent Walsh (Joseph) and I developed on-screen in this movie, I must say has been revealing to me in understanding how important the “partnership” between a father-husband and a mother-wife is. They are a team, they support each other and they have at heart the well-being of their child, of each other and, ultimately, of the whole family.
Meanwhile, The Washington Times also reports that producer Bill Andrew is offering to screen the movie for free to any and all interested members of Congress.
April 2 update: Rory Keenan talked to Christian Toto about playing the Devil in the film, and whether his Satan is a “metrosexual”:
“I can see how this Satan could be perceived as someone who takes care of his appearance,” Keenan says. “I imagine there is a vanity to him. Part of his vanity is in the fact that he believes he can out-smart God, and this perhaps manifests itself in his appearance.”
That presentation clashes with how other men appear in the film. Hard work and sacrifice don’t allow for much primping.
“Traditionally men of that era would not have taken so much care of their appearance. But this Satan knows he needs to seduce,” the actor notes. “He needs to have a little something extra. He needs to be curious-looking enough to pique Jesus’s interest.”
Cyrus Nowrasteh also wrote an essay on how they developed the Satan figure.
June 13 update: Sara Lazarro spoke to The Gospel Herald:
There are several poignant moments in the film where Mary is shown struggling with wanting to protect her son, but understanding she would need to tell Jesus about God’s plan for Him.
“I think that this duality you perceived, is the conflict that is at the core, that in some way defines and moves Mary,” Lazzaro said. “This was a crucial aspect that Cyrus really focused on and it’s something that needed to transpire: the task this young woman had to face, this dual (at times contrasting) role she had in being a mother, but also knowing that this child, in a way, was not ‘her own’. It’s a constant coexistence of contrasting feelings, of layers and density that had to fill each silence, each word and each action that was going to take place.”
She also spoke to the Indie Movie Examiner:
The Mary that was offered in the script of “The Young Messiah” has a very earthy and relatable quality. What transpires so beautifully from the writing is her human quality. And that was something I could relate to, something I could play. Personally, I am not a mother (yet), but I inevitably asked myself : what would I do if I were the mother of this child? How would I go about this journey knowing what she and her family had already been through and unsure of what was awaiting for them ahead? I had to strip down and make myself available and vulnerable to it all. There is a fascinating “quiet strength” in Mary that is perceivable in this story, but also in her universally. That strength, I believe, anchors itself onto love, faith and family. Funnily enough, what I think was the most important thing for me, was to ‘strip’ down and have every moment be lived, spoken and played with the most honest and instinctual nature I could access.
Vincent Walsh, who plays Joseph, spoke to Christian Toto:
Again, with regards to Joseph connecting with Jesus I couldn’t help but think of my own little boy. One particular scene where Joseph talks to his son Jesus (played by the incredible young Adam Greaves-Neal) up on the hill. I drew on moments that I’ve had with my own 12 year old boy. I told Cyrus that it was very coincidental as a week prior to leaving for Italy, I had a very similar moment with my own boy whereby he had a number of questions about “life” and school. . . .
Cyrus told me that everyone that saw the film loved my portrayal but one man in particular said after seeing the film he would try to be a better father to his son. That floored me. Very touched by that.
August 31 update: Walsh spoke to The Washingtom Times as well:
“I want Joseph to be strong,” Cyrus told me. “He’s the anchor, the rock, the guy who’s making the decisions.” So I did my best to be strong.
If I find any other non-Nowrasteh/Columbus interviews, I will add them to this post.