Will Brad Pitt play the man who sent Jesus to his death?

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk
Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt is thought to be circling the title role in Warner Bros.' "Pontius Pilate" -- the story of the man who is said to have convicted Jesus Christ and authorized his crucifixion.

The 49-year-old actor is not yet confirmed in the role, but a deal could move quickly, according to a Deadline report. Yahoo! Movies reached out to Warner Bros. to confirm, but sources there had no comment and indicated the story is a rumor (though they did not deny it full stop).

Pontius Pilate is one of the most vilified figures in the Bible, but his villain status isn't a black and white issue -- likely a factor attracting Pitt to the role. "Troy" this is not, this would mark the first time Pitt would play a seemingly sinister lead character in a major studio period film.

[Related: Angelina Jolie fought for chance to direct WWII POW film adaptation]

Pilate was the governor of Judaea and was often torn between the leanings of the Roman Empire and the Sanhedrin Jewish council. Various historical sources portray Pilate in different ways: Some writings place more blame on Pilate for Jesus' death while others state he succumbed to political pressure, other sources even say he rescinded his decision to let Jesus die.

A script has been written by Vera Blasi ("Woman on Top," 2000; "Tortilla Soup," 2001) and is said to characterize Pilate as a "capable Roman soldier [who] gets in way over his head." The film version tracks Pilate's entire life story which includes heroic war tales and his quick ascent to power in the Roman Empire under Tiberius' rule. By the time he is forced to decide Jesus' fate, according to the script, Pilate has found himself in an incredibly tenuous political position. Other characters depicted in the screenplay include Caligula, John the Baptist, Salome and Mary Magdalene.

If Pitt takes on the role, he wouldn't be the only one in his family playing a vilified character as a major studio film's lead. His significant other (and maybe wife), actress-director Angelina Jolie is playing Sleeping Beauty's classic fairytale foe in "Maleficent," a Disney live-action film due in theaters March 2014. Like the Pilate part -- and its aforementioned moral complexities -- Maleficent (Jolie) is not all bad (though yes, to state the obvious, Jolie's character is fictional while Pilate is not). The updated version of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale is told from the perspective of the nemesis of Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) this time around.

[Related: Angelina Jolie is Maleficent]

Pitt will next appear on the big screen in the action film "World War Z," set to open on June 21.

Watch 'World War Z' Theatrical Trailer:

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