Canadian director Roger Avary teams with Verhoeven for ‘Jesus of Nazareth’

Will Perkins
Wide ScreenJune 20, 2012

Two people who are no stranger to controversy are about to embark on what could be their most controversial effort to date. According to Deadline, Canadian writer/director Roger Avary ("Pulp Fiction," "The Rules of Attraction") and Dutch director Paul Verhoeven ("Robocop," "Basic Instinct") are joining forces for "Jesus of Nazareth," a film based on Verhoeven's book of the same name. Given the very touchy subject matter, scandal is sure to follow this one wherever it goes.

"Jesus of Nazareth" characterizes Christ quite differently than the New Testament version accepted by Christians. Putting any and all supernatural elements aside, the focus of Verhoeven's book is on Jesus the man, a political radical fighting against Roman rule in the Holy Land. Simply portraying Jesus as a man is blasphemous to many, but the inevitable uproar will likely do little to dissuade Verhoeven from making the film; if anything, it will encourage him. The Dutchman wrote the book in hopes of turning it into a film some day. Now, having secured funding and screenwriter Avary, it looks like the Verhoeven will finally get to make the movie version.

The "Jesus of Nazareth" book is already a divisive take on the "greatest story ever told." With the subversive Avary involved, the movie version will likely make other films about Jesus (like the highly controversial "Passion of the Christ" and "Last Temptation of Christ") look like nursery rhymes in comparison. For his part, Verhoeven is no stranger to death and resurrection stories. The director has said that his 1989 sci-fi film "Robocop" is essentially a Christ metaphor, calling the title character a sort of shoot first "American Jesus"

"["Robocop"] is about a guy who gets crucified in the first 50 minutes, and then is resurrected in the next 50 minutes, and then is like the supercop of the world, but is also a Jesus figure as he walks over water at the end." Verhoeven told MTV in 2010.

Verhoeven and Avary's "Jesus of Narareth" joins a growing pile of films based on Biblical stories and characters coming out of Hollywood. Director Darren Aronofsky has assembled a star-studded cast for his upcoming "Noah" film, one that includes Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson. Director's Steven Spielberg and Mel Gibson are also currently working on Bible themed movies.

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