Controversial film about Jesus gets financing

Yahoo Contributor Network

The past months have seen a rash of biblical films moving forward into various stages of production. Darren Aronofsky is readying his take on the story of Noah and has lined up such actors as Russell Crowe and Emma Watson. Recently, Ridley Scott dropped hints that he was interested in telling the story of Moses, with Steven Spielberg's version of the Moses story on the back burner, too.

Now another director can be added to the list: Paul Verhoven. But while the other filmmakers seem to be readying biblical epics, Verhoven is planning to bring Jesus Christ down to earth with a very humanizing take on the New Testament.

Deadline reports that Verhoven has secured financing for an adaptation of his own book "Jesus of Nazareth." The site states that Chris Hanley of Muse Productions has stepped up to back the picture and see it through production.

Verhoven has said in the past he wanted to adapt the book but, given the subject matter, it's surprising that any studio was prepared to support his vision. "Jesus of Nazareth" strips all of the miracles and divine aspects out of the story of Jesus, opting to look at Christ purely as a man. The Dutch filmmaker still revered Jesus in the book, but as a human being and political figure who revolutionized the ethics of the time rather than as the literal son of God.

The film is guaranteed to cause a great deal of controversy for removing the divine from Jesus's story, and there is no doubt that church groups of all kinds will be up in arms over the picture. However, controversy isn't anything new for either Verhoven or Hanley.

Verhoven's films often courted controversy of one sort or another, be it for extreme violence in the case of "Robocop" or over the top sexuality in "Showgirls." Hanley, meanwhile, served as the producer on the film "American Psycho," which had its own share of scandal at the time it was released.

The more intimate and humanized take on Jesus should allow Verhoven to tell the story on a relatively small budget. This is vital since the film seems unlikely to receive wide theatrical distribution due to the amount of ire it is likely to stir up.

The last film to offer up a more human version of Jesus was Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ." That film was heavily protested and remains divisive even to this day. And though that story only dealt with certain human failings of Jesus, it still portrayed him as largely a divine figure. It's not hard to imagine the kind of uproar that will be caused by stripping out the miraculous aspects of Christ altogether, as Verhoven plans to do.

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