A new movie called “The Navitity Story” has made its premiere at the Vatican. The Pope was not in attendance, nor was 16 year old actress Keisha Castle-Hughes, who plays Mary.

Hughes didn’t make it to the premiere because apparently she’s a heck of a method-actor – she’s pregnant. Producers thought a 16 year old unwed pregnant actress at the premiere of a biblical film might be way too Hollywood for the Vatican.

The director of The Nativity Story, Catherine Hardwicke, didn’t want the movie to be too controversial:

Hardwicke praised The Passion, but said she tried to do a more uniting film than Gibson’s highly controversial blockbuster about the last hours of Jesus Christ.

“There were some things he did that maybe were a little controversial. We wanted our film to be uniting and make the public see the similarities between religious instead of the differences,” she said.

This is the problem with most biblical movies. If you’re in to avoiding controversy, the last place you should look is the Bible. This is where Hollywood usually tries to spruce things up to remove controversy and add material to intice a modern audience.

I’ve often thought about how the typical Hollywood movie about the Bible comes about, and I imagine the conversation often goes like this:

*****

A producer’s phone rings and a speakerphone button is pushed.

“Mr. Hollywood here. Talk to me!”

“Hi, Mr. Hollywood. It’s Joe Screenwriter. We’ve finally started production on the ‘Jesus’ film, and I thought you’d want to hear the finished script Rubenstein and I came up with.”

“Sure. Who do we have playing Jesus, anyway?” Mr. Hollywood asks.

Papers flip, then Screenwriter says, “Vince Vaughn’s doing it.”

“Dennehy,” Mr. Hollywood wonders aloud. “What happened to the Brian Dennehy deal?”

“Well, everything was fine until Mr. Dennehy put on the sackcloth robe for run-throughs. I don’t know much, but I do know that Jesus shouldn’t have plumber’s crack.”

There is a long pause as Mr. Hollywood thinks. Joe Screenwriter can hear a pencil tapping on a pad of paper. “OK, Vaughn’s fine. Why don’t you let me hear the outline of the script you’re working from.”

Screenwriter picks up his rough draft for “Jesus: The Movie,” flips in a few pages and begins the outline.

“In the first scene, Jesus is born, but He’s not the person everyone thinks. He’s actually the son of Hebrew slaves. His mother, Jochebed, played by Shelley Long, is …”

“Wait,” Mr. Hollywood interjects. “Are you getting your stories mixed up? Wasn’t the mother of Jesus named Mary?”

“No, I think that was Job’s mother.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway,” Screenwriter continues, “after Shelley gives birth to Jesus, she puts the kid in a basket and sends Him down the river.” Screenwriter flips a page. “At this point we’re having a little subplot involving a love affair between two characters named Matthew and Sheena. Matthew is a stone carver and Sheena is his lover who, while Matthew’s away carving stones, decides to explore her own homoerotic fantasies with her neighbor. Ann Heche is playing the part of the neighbor.”

“I hear Heche is a complete nut job,” Mr. Hollywood points out, “Can we work with her?”

“I’ll put it this way,” Says Screenwriter, “We could have spent $4 million to get Heather Graham, but Heche would take the part as long as we agreed to give her $50 in euro coins, a gumball machine and have a priest from the Raelian cult grant her eternal youth.”

“I’ll take a bargain over stability any day,” points out Mr. Hollywood, as he sits back in his chair, takes a puff on a cigar and throws a dart at a poster of Mel Gibson. “Go on, Screenwriter.”

“To make a long story short, the polar ice caps melt due to global warming, which was induced by severe ozone depletion caused by Bethlehem’s Republican mayor having months earlier lifted the town’s long-time ban on leaf burning. The melting ice caps flood the planet, and this prompts a guy named Jack to build an ark.”

“Jack’s Ark?” Mr. Hollywood questions sarcastically.

“The name ‘Noah’ tested horribly in focus group,” Screenwriter quickly explains.

“Gotcha,” Mr. Hollywood shoots back.

“So,” Screenwriter continues, “the boat gets built, and Jack, the two lesbians and a bunch of animals float around for a while, get their shirts wet a lot, and make shallow and mindless social commentary in a cheap attempt to forward a liberal Hollywood political agenda.”

“When does Jesus come back into play here?” asks Mr. Hollywood.

“Down the line a bit, when the people on the Ark discover Him still floating in the basket and pull Him on board. Also, in sticking to the literal interpretations of the Bible, we’ve got Jesus feeding five loafers with two fishes, inheriting the earth for a week and stuff like that.”

“I love it!” opines Mr. Hollywood. “It’s absolutely brilliant! Okay, hit me with the ending.”

Screenwriter flips to the final page. “Get this, boss – Jesus is sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate and led to a cross to be crucified. The last scene will be of Jesus being resurrected three days after His death and ascending to heaven to act as Savior for all mankind.”

“Screenwriter,” interrupts Mr. Hollywood, “we need to stick to the facts, alright? This is the Bible, a book that is hundreds of years old, this is no time for artistic license. Rework the ending and have it back to me by 8 a.m., and put in a dance number. Need I remind you of a little lucrative thing we did called Moulin Rouge?”
———-

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