Is Mel Gibson making a sequel to The Passion of the Christ?

Is Mel Gibson making a sequel to The Passion of the Christ? June 9, 2016

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More than one film has tried to position itself as a sequel to The Passion of the Christ.

In 2006, The Final Inquiry brought back Hristo Shopov as Pontius Pilate for a story in which a Roman investigates reports that Jesus has come back from the dead.

Similarly, this year Risen focused on a Roman soldier who investigates rumours of the Resurrection, and it was billed by some as an “unofficial sequel” to The Passion.

Benedict Fitzgerald — who co-wrote The Passion and ended up suing Mel Gibson for a share of the profits — tried to make a prequel about Jesus’ mother called Myriam, Mother of the Christ, but it got derailed by Mexican kidnappers (seriously).

And there have been several other attempts to make a movie about the Resurrection along the way, most of which have stalled for lack of financing.

Now The Hollywood Reporter says Gibson himself might be stepping into the fray, with a bit of help from screenwriter Randall Wallace, who collaborated with Gibson on Braveheart, We Were Soldiers and the upcoming Hacksaw Ridge:

Wallace, who most recently directed and co-wrote the 2014 faith-based drama Heaven Is for Real, says he and Gibson began to get serious about a sequel to The Passion, the most successful independent film of all time, while making Hacksaw Ridge, which Gibson directed and Wallace co-wrote. . . .

Wallace was a religion major at Duke University and says the resurrection was a specialty of his. “I always wanted to tell this story,” he says. “The Passion is the beginning and there’s a lot more story to tell.” . . .

Rumors swirled anew last month when Gibson was a surprise guest at Liberty University’s graduation ceremony to do an advance screening of Hacksaw Ridge and was asked about a Passion follow-up. He expressed interest in making a sequel but was not specific about his involvement. Wallace says demand in the Christian community influenced he and Gibson’s willingness to do another film.

“The evangelical community considers The Passion the biggest movie ever out of Hollywood, and they kept telling us that they think a sequel will be even bigger,” Wallace says.

Just for the record, The Passion of the Christ is not the biggest movie ever. In box-office terms, it currently ranks 29th in North America and 109th worldwide. It is not even the top-grossing Bible movie overseas; that honour goes to Darren Aronofsky’s Noah ($241.1 million for The Passion vs. $261.4 million for Noah).

But The Passion was certainly big in its day, and many people did want a sequel back then. Whether a sequel would be just as big now is another question, though, given the various scandals that Gibson has endured over the past decade.

Keep in mind too that the enormously popular 2013 History Channel miniseries The Bible — which owed a lot to The Passion in its handling of the Crucifixion — was followed last year by A.D. The Bible Continues, which failed to find a similar audience even though it was broadcast on a network (NBC) with a much bigger reach.

For several years after The Passion came out, Gibson toyed with making a movie about the Maccabees, the Jewish rebels (regarded as martyrs even by some Christian churches) who took their country back from the Greeks in the 2nd century BC.

That movie would have fit quite well within Gibson’s wheelhouse; violence and torture have been recurring themes in nearly all of his directorial efforts. But the project fell apart when Gibson and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas got into a feud in 2012.

It’s anyone’s guess how Gibson would handle the Resurrection or the early days of the Church, given that those stories lack obvious opportunities for Gibson’s brand of violence — but I’m curious to see what Gibson and Wallace come up with.

June 10 update: IndieWire asked me to write a thinkpiece on the pros and cons of Gibson’s proposed sequel to The Passion. This is what I came up with.

I see also that Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr claimed last month that Gibson had told him he was thinking of making this sequel three years ago.

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