Curtis' approach hewed perfectly with the character as written on the page. "One of the challenges with Yeshua is that he doesn't have a lot of scripted dialogue," observes Reynolds. "That's why we needed someone who could manifest the presence of Yeshua without being able to do it verbally."
Curtis, who descends from the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, considered the role the challenge of a lifetime. "Whether you believe he was the son of God or not, Yeshua was an extraordinary human being," he says. "He changed the way humanity perceived life itself, so it's been an incredible honor to be portray him. I could only approach the role with gratitude and humility."
To make sure their scenes together crackled with tension, Curtis and Fiennes avoided eye contact during the four-month-long shoot except when cameras rolled. "We didn't spend any time together and I think that served to make our meeting on screen more energized and palpable," Fiennes recalls. "We were often in the same room but never engaged, and somehow that made it more exciting when we did finally have full contact on screen, verbally and emotionally."
A Question of Faith
With its spectacular vistas, visceral action scenes, earthy characters and detective-mystery framework, Risen aims to resonate with faith-based movie-goers and non-believers alike. "For me, Risen stands out because it's a quite conservative rendering of the Gospel that accepts the extraordinary word as written," Fiennes says. "I love that this film embraces the mystery of Christ through an original lens."
While remaining true to New Testament teaching, Risen incorporates a contemporary tone that also accommodates the sensibilities of skeptics. "I've always wanted to tell a story like this where it really feels like a big Hollywood movie," says producer Liddell. "Obviously we want the faith community to feel that they're represented in the right way. But if you're not a believer, all the action and great dramatic moments offer so many other reasons to be entertained by Risen."
Reynolds deliberately designed his presentation of the Resurrection so that moviegoers could form their own conclusions about the events depicted on screen. "We don't really want to tell anyone what they should believe," says the director. "People can use this film as a vehicle to examine their own spirituality, or just enjoy the story purely from a cinematic standpoint."