Biblical movies are all the rage in Hollywood right now, with Darren Aronofsky currently casting his "Noah" for a summer shoot, Ridley Scott looking to tackle Moses for Fox while Steven Spielberg also has a Moses movie brewing for Warner Bros. Meanwhile, "Robocop" and "Showgirls" director Paul Verhoeven wants in on the Biblical epic movement too, specifically with the controversial take on Jesus Christ that he's been trying to get off the ground since last year. And Verhoeven has taken a couple significant steps forward with his Jesus movie with Muse Productions’ Chris Hanley stepping up to finance the project and screenwriter Roger Avary ("Beowulf," "Killing Zoe") hired to write the screenplay.
Verhoeven's interest in Jesus didn't occur overnight. Besides being a member of the the Jesus Seminar, the Dutch director published a book he co-wrote last year titled "Jesus of Nazareth." Not surprisingly, that's the book that Avary will have to adapt into a screenplay, and who better than Avary, who infamously inspired the heroin sequences in "Pulp Fiction" and directed the drug-fueled morality tales "Killing Zoe" and "Rules of Attraction," to pen a new, realistic take on Jesus' life in which his mother is raped by a Roman soldier instead of experiencing an immaculate conception and all of Christ's miracles from the New Testament are intentionally removed? On the one hand, we're not being sarcastic, as Avary certainly isn't afraid to tackle controversial subjects, while on the other hand, we are totally being sarcastic since the movie adaptation is already sure to cause controversy for its non-traditional outlook on Jesus' history, and Avary's past work and dubious reputation is sure to stoke the fires already burning in the minds of those who won't be taken by Verhoeven's views of Christ. From Avary's point of view, however, the gig is probably welcome — he was also attached to adapt William Faulkner's "Sanctuary" last year, and has been trying to rebuild his career after serving a prison sentence for the manslaughter and DUI charges to which he pled guilty in 2009.
As for Verhoeven's book, the adaptation will depict Jesus in a more human light, hence the reason the miracles and the resurrection are being stripped from the story. Instead, Jesus will be portrayed as an ethicist and a radical prophet, whose message became too politically strong for the Romans to idly accept and endure. While that version may not seem blasphemous to Verhoeven, it more than likely is for many. Clearly, it wasn't a problem for Hanley's checkbook or for his Muse Productions, whose recent slate includes director Harmony Kormine's "Spring Breakers" and the in-limbo "Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story."
There's no word yet on when "Jesus of Nazareth" will start production, but once it does, it probably won't take long for Fox News to start reporting on a movie about Jesus from the director of "Basic Instinct" and the co-writer of "Pulp Fiction" produced by a company that is also trying to make a biopic about a porn star. It's not going to be an easy road for Verhoeven, but, considering he has been concentrating his directorial efforts in his native Holland (and Muse works primarily on indies), this probably won't get the wide release and attention of "The Passion of the Christ" and may safely fly under the radar. Christ believed in redemption, so we wish them luck on this endeavor. [Deadline]