Paul Verhoeven Finds Backing And A Writer For Controversial Jesus Christ Movie
[Film to paint Christ's conception a result of Roman rape]
June 19 2012 // Deadline NY
EXCLUSIVE: As Darren Aronofsky’s Noah gets ready to set sail and iconic directors Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg forge ahead with epics about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, faithful Biblical epics are flourishing in Hollywood. It looks like there is even room for one that takes the most controversial look at the life of Jesus Christ since Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ.
I’m told that Muse Productions’ Chris Hanley [SEE BELOW FOR MORE ON HIM], whose credits include American Psycho, has stepped up to finance development of a film about Christ. It will be based on Jesus Of Nazareth, a book that director Paul Verhoeven co-wrote after immersing himself in the history and researching the subject for nearly two decades. Verhoeven plans to direct the film, which will be written by Roger Avary. Avary shared the Academy Award for Best Original Script with Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction.
Verhoeven’s take on the life of Jesus Christ discounts all the miracles that inform the New Testament. That includes the virgin birth and the resurrection. Verhoeven doesn’t believe any of them happened. I wrote about Verhoeven’s ambitions in spring 2011, as he and his reps at ICM first tried to find funding — no small feat given some of the theories he put forth in the book.The most controversial: that Jesus might have been the product of his mother being raped by a Roman soldier, which Verhoeven said was commonplace at the time, and that Jesus was a radical prophet who performed exorcisms and was convinced he would find the kingdom of Heaven on earth, and did not know he would be sentenced to die on the cross by Pontius Pilate. That, and the discounting of the miracles that pepper the New Testament, has made this a daunting project to set up. But while Verhoeven’s film credits include Showgirls (as well as hits like Robocop, Total Recall and Basic Instinct), he isn’t trying to tantalize here. He is fixated on Christ not for the miracles depicted in the blockbuster film The Passion Of The Christ, but rather in the enduring power of the message Christ preached which has kept him first and foremost in the minds of Christians for 2000 years. Verhoeven feels too many take Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins as a free pass to misbehave, because they think they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions. He feels that the value of Christ’s journey is the opportunity to emulate his life and the values he held dear, like forgiveness.
“If you look at the man, it’s clear you have a person who was completely innovative in the field of ethics,” Verhoeven told me last year. “My own passion for Jesus came when I started to realize that. It’s not about miracles, it’s about a new set of ethics, an openness towards the world, which was anathema in a Roman-dominated world. I believe he was crucified because they felt that politically, he was a dangerous person whose following was getting bigger and bigger. Jesus’ ideals are about the utopia of human behavior, about how we should treat each other, how we should step into the shoes of our enemy.”…
Verhoeven… is treading on territory that Christians universally would label as blasphemous. The film seems to have landed in the appropriate place, as a gritty and controversial independent film. Both Verhoeven and Avary are repped by ICM Partners, which did not comment, nor did Hanley return my call.
EDITED TO ADD:
INFORMATION ON THE FINANCIAL BACKER:
According to this Hollywood Reporter story, Verhoeven’s blasphemous book isn’t the only antiCatholic work that Chris Hanley, of Muse Productions, has optioned.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org [N.B. seems he likes to post critical mail on his production company's website]
Tel: +1 310 306 2001
Fax: +1 310 574 2614
15 Brooks Avenue,
You can read an extended interview (content advisory) with Chris Hanley here, and a shorter one here. His Twitter account is here, and a video (one of many) of him behaving like a freak is here. His IMDb profile is here, and this is a photograph of him with his wife: