Ever since Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ struck box office gold ($612 million worldwide in 2004), Hollywood has been looking for the Next Big Thing in Christian movies. Mostly, they've struck out, but they're still trying.
Varietyreports that preproduction is under way for The Resurrection of the Christ, but it's not a sequel to Gibson's epic, nor is it made by the same studio or filmmakers. Filming will take place this summer in Israel, Morocco, and Europe, and the film will hit theaters around Easter 2011.
The movie is being produced by Bill McKay, who was also behind the 2008 movie, Billy: The Early Years, a film about Billy Graham that was a bust at the box office and among the few critics who saw it.
Here's hoping McKay does a better job with the most important event in the history of Christendom. At least he's got the money this time: $20 million to spend, according to Variety, compared to about $5 million for Billy). Jonas McCord, whose only other feature film was 2001's The Body (an Antonio Banderas film that was critically panned), will direct.
McKay told Variety that The Resurrection will focus on the power, greed and ambition of those involved in the crucifixion – Pontius Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas and Judas. "It's as much about the key players as it is about Jesus," McKay said. "We want to bring in the 'Gladiator' dimension of the first century against the political milieu of the time."
Samuel Goldwyn Films will handle U.S. distribution.
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