Dating back to the early silents, the Bible has always been big business in Hollywood. Indeed, it’s currently one of the hot properties in the industry; producers love well-known names and titles! Darren Aronofsky is working on an adaptation of the Noah and the Ark story from the Old Testament, while reportedly both Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg have Moses projects in mind.
Now Deadline reports that Paul Verhoeven has finally gotten backing to direct an adaptation of his own book, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Muse Productions’s Chris Hanley will produce and Roger Avary, who co-wrote “Pulp Fiction” with Quentin Tarantino, will write the script.
Yes, Paul Verhoeven wrote the book. Here’s a description of it from Amazon:
Building on the work of biblical scholars—Rudolph Bultmann, Raymond Brown, Jane Schaberg, and Robert Funk, among others—filmmaker Paul Verhoeven disrobes the mythical Jesus to reveal a man who has much in common with other great political leaders throughout history—human beings who believed that change was coming in their lifetimes. Gone is the Jesus of the miracles, gone the son of God, gone the weaver of arcane parables whose meanings are obscure. In their place Verhoeven gives us his vision of Jesus as a complete man, someone who was changed by events, the leader of a political movement, and, perhaps most importantly, someone who, in his speeches and sayings, introduced a new ethic in which the embrace of human contradictions transcends the mechanics of value and worth that had defined the material world before Jesus. “The Romans saw [Jesus] as an insurrectionist, what today is often called a terrorist. It is very likely there were ‘wanted’ posters of him on the gates of Jerusalem. He was dangerous because he was proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven, but this wasn’t the Kingdom of Heaven as we think of it now, some spectral thing in the future, up in the sky. For Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven was a very tangible thing. Something that was already present on Earth, in the same way that Che Guevara proclaimed Marxism as the advent of world change. If you were totalitarian rulers, running an occupation like the Romans, this was troubling talk, and that was why Jesus was killed.”
By the way, Verhoeven’s not just a dilettante–here’s a little of his author cred from Amazon:
After receiving advanced degrees in math and physics, PAUL VERHOEVEN began to make movies, eventually moving from his native Holland to Los Angeles in 1985, where he also became the only non-theologian admitted into the Jesus Seminar, a group of seventy-seven eminent scholars in theology, philosophy, linguistics, and biblical history. Verhoeven is the director of successful films such as Turkish Delight, The Fourth Man, RoboCop, Basic Instinct, and Starship Troopers.
Funny how they don’t mention “Showgirls.”
So what’s the controversy? According to Deadline, Verhoeven’s book:
“…discounts all of the miracles that inform the New Testament. That includes the immaculate conception, and the resurrection. Verhoeven doesn’t believe any of them happened. ..The most controversial: that Jesus might have been the product of his mother being raped by a Roman soldier, which Verhoeven said was commonplace at the time, and that Jesus was a radical prophet who performed exorcisms and was convinced he would find the kingdom of Heaven on earth, and did not know he would be sentenced to die on the cross by Pontius Pilate.”
This won’t be the first controversial version of the life of Christ; Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” kicked up a huge firestorm when it was released in 1988. But as they say, better bad publicity than no publicity, so any anger Verhoeven creates around this movie will likely benefit it at least somewhere (hey, it will be fine in Europe).