Few people knew the names of Jimmy Morris, Robert "Radio" Kennedy, or Herb Brooks before they hit the big screen in The Rookie, Radio, and Miracle, respectively. So if Mike Rich, who wrote the screenplays for those films, messed up any details of those real-life characters, few would have noticed.

But that's not the case with Jesus. Or Joseph and Mary. Mess them up, and you'll hear about it. Nobody knows that better than Rich, who decided to tackle those characters anyway for The Nativity Story, coming to theaters in December.

Rich was well aware of the gravity of the subject matter when he decided to write the script. But after reading Time and Newsweek cover stories on the Nativity in December 2004, he knew what he wanted to write next: A screenplay about Mary and Joseph, leading up to the birth of Christ, and telling the story in such a way that made the characters more human than they'd ever been portrayed before.

Mike Rich has written a number of screenplays,
but nothing like this

He spent 11 months researching the topic and about a month writing the script. New Line Cinema bought it almost immediately, Catherine Hardwicke was tapped to direct, and the film was put on the fast track. It opens on December 1, about one year to the day after Rich started writing.

We first met Rich, who is also the film's executive director, in May on the set in southern Italy, and we recently followed up with a more in-depth interview. He spoke with us from his home in Beaverton, Oregon, where he lives with wife Grace and their three children, and where he attends Southwest Bible Church—a congregation Rich says has been upholding this project in prayer all along.

I hear you've just seen a rough cut of the film. How did you like it?

Mike ...

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