Joseph Fiennes Talks About Playing a Skeptic in ‘Risen’

The star of the upcoming Bible film talks about his new film, the nature of belief, gladiator school, and Eric Liddell.
Joseph Fiennes Talks About Playing a Skeptic in ‘Risen’
Image: Columbia Pictures
Joseph Fiennes in 'Risen'

The film Risen—which will hit theaters on February 19, 2016—is not quite like any film based on the Bible that I’ve seen before. Directed by Kevin Reynolds, the film stars Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) as Clavius, a Roman centurion who is assigned to figure out where the body of Jesus of Nazareth has gone after it disappears from the tomb. Clavius is a world-weary, ambitious man of Rome, but as he interviews various people from Jesus’ life, he starts to realize that more is going on here than meets the eye.

I spoke with Fiennes by phone last November about playing Clavius, the nature of belief, going to gladiator school, and his upcoming role as Eric Liddell in The Last Race (which covers the period of Liddell’s life as a missionary in China, following the events of Chariots of Fire). The following transcript of our conversation was edited for clarity.

Christianity Today: What attracted you to this project?

Joseph Fiennes: I met with our director, Kevin [Reynolds]. He is extremely intelligent—I loved his films and identify a lot with them. He had established a pretty brilliant pitch, which was really getting into the story of Christ through the eyes of an agnostic. I thought that was a brilliant, original approach. It also appealed to me that it was like a detective story as well. There's this ticking clock to prove that the resurrection is a hoax and designed to bring about the uprising. Clavius is against it, and I love that sense of pressure.

It felt a little bit like Chinatown, where the man is sucked into a mystery—a murder-mystery—but also a theological mystery. I loved it for those terms. I thought it was highly original.

In the film, familiar figures keep walking ...

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