Movement on a project first announced in 2012, although casting hadn’t been shored-up at the time.
Announced today, Forest Whitaker has signed on to play another prominent African figure – this time it’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu – in a project by Roland Joffé, titled “The Archbishop and the Antichrist.” He’ll be joined by Vince Vaughn in the film, which is based on the play by Michael Ashton, and centers on the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings – a post-apartheid commissioning in which victims took an active role in the judicial process (called on to give accounts of the gross human rights violations they were subjected to), while offenders were encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, “to repair the harm they caused.”
Joffé’s script (which he co-wrote with playwright Michael Ashton) will imagine a fictional meeting between the real Tutu (and the people in his personal and political affairs while he worked on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission), and a boorish white South African mass murderer called Piet Blomfeld.
Whitaker will play Tutu and Vaughn will be Blomfeld, the self-titled “Antichrist.”
Joffé is directing the film.
It’s a play I unfortunately can’t claim to be familiar with. Although I did a little digging and found this write-up of it, from 2011, which should give us an idea of what to expect: Writer, ex-prisoner and former barrister Michael Ashton provokes some interesting thoughts on the relationship between truth and justice and whether the former necessarily results in the latter. Does confession really result in an easier healing process and, for South Africa in particular, how can a nation begin to come to terms with the crimes committed in its name? Equally impressive is his ability to boil the issues down and present them in one man’s struggle to come to terms with his actions during apartheid. The Archbishop and The Antichrist is multilayered and incredibly rich. If you approach it already familiar with the events, there’s an enormous amount of historical and political questioning to feast on. And without such familiarity, there are the confused and absorbing thoughts of one death-row prisoner, Piet Blomfield, as he wrestles with redemption. Blomfield, the self-title ‘antichrist’ manages to get the archbishop to visit him in prison where he questions the purpose and effectiveness of the TRC. His cynicism and his confused regard for religion is embodied fantastically by Oscar Pearce. Pearce’s constant foot-tapping and chain-jangling draw the audience into his world and the whirl of thoughts in his head. With Blomfield, the archbishop faces direct questions that require direct answers. There’s no beating about the bush with Blomfield, who does his best to swerve the grey areas. It’s a striking contrast to Tutu’s meetings with FW de Klerk and the TRC who endlessly talk in circles, unable to get to concrete conclusions. de Klerk is played by the brilliant Peter Cartwright, one member of a flawless cast including Jeffrey Kisson as Desmond Tutu, Pamela Nomvete as his wife and Dona Croll as his secretary. The only criticism I have of the play is a minor staging issue. At times the physical distance between de Klerk and the archbishop make it difficult to focus. Their tennis match of words doesn’t need to be highlighted any further by making them sit so far apart as they deliver their lines. Especially as there is such a great space in the centre thanks to the effective in-the-round seating. There are rarely more than two characters on stage at a time and the clever lighting makes each scene feel like a confrontation in a restrained boxing ring. The characters can seem intensely close, like Desmond and his wife, or tragically far apart, like when Winnie Mandela shows up. It’s an epic fictionalised take on events…”
I’m sure our friends at Africa Is A Country will have some thoughts on this, and I’m looking forward to reading them.
Although, quite frankly, I’m having a difficult time imagining Whitaker as Tutu. But let’s see what they come up with here…
Craig Baumgarten will produce “The Archbishop and the Antichrist,” with Kim Ashton executive producing.
13 Films is handling international rights and WME Global is handling North American rights for the film, which will be shopped at the upcoming American Film Market.