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Roger Avary To Write Paul Verhoeven's 'Jesus Of Nazareth' As Financing Comes Together

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by Ryan Gowland
June 20, 2012 11:17 AM
34 Comments
  • |
Paul Verhoeven Roger Avary

Biblical movies are all the rage in Hollywood right now, with Darren Aronofsky currently casting his "Noah" for a summer shoot,  Ridley Scott looking to tackle Moses for Fox while Steven Spielberg also has a Moses movie brewing for Warner Bros. Meanwhile, "Robocop" and "Showgirls" director Paul Verhoeven wants in on the Biblical epic movement too, specifically with the controversial take on Jesus Christ that he's been trying to get off the ground since last year. And Verhoeven has taken a couple significant steps forward with his Jesus movie with Muse ProductionsChris Hanley stepping up to finance the project and screenwriter Roger Avary ("Beowulf," "Killing Zoe") hired to write the screenplay.

Verhoeven's interest in Jesus didn't occur overnight. Besides being a member of the the Jesus Seminar, the Dutch director published a book he co-wrote last year titled "Jesus of Nazareth." Not surprisingly, that's the book that Avary will have to adapt into a screenplay, and who better than Avary, who infamously inspired the heroin sequences in "Pulp Fiction" and directed the drug-fueled morality tales "Killing Zoe" and "Rules of Attraction," to pen a new, realistic take on Jesus' life in which his mother is raped by a Roman soldier instead of experiencing an immaculate conception and all of Christ's miracles from the New Testament are intentionally removed? On the one hand, we're not being sarcastic, as Avary certainly isn't afraid to tackle controversial subjects, while on the other hand, we are totally being sarcastic since the movie adaptation is already sure to cause controversy for its non-traditional outlook on Jesus' history, and Avary's past work and dubious reputation is sure to stoke the fires already burning in the minds of those who won't be taken by Verhoeven's views of Christ. From Avary's point of view, however, the gig is probably welcome -- he was also attached to adapt William Faulkner's "Sanctuary" last year, and has been trying to rebuild his career after serving a prison sentence for the manslaughter and DUI charges to which he pled guilty in 2009.

As for Verhoeven's book, the adaptation will depict Jesus in a more human light, hence the reason the miracles and the resurrection are being stripped from the story. Instead, Jesus will be portrayed as an ethicist and a radical prophet, whose message became too politically strong for the Romans to idly accept and endure. While that version  may not seem blasphemous to Verhoeven, it more than likely is for many. Clearly, it wasn't a problem for Hanley's checkbook or for his Muse Productions, whose recent slate includes director Harmony Kormine's "Spring Breakers" and the in-limbo "Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story."

There's no word yet on when "Jesus of Nazareth" will start production, but once it does, it probably won't take long for Fox News to start reporting on a movie about Jesus from the director of "Basic Instinct" and the co-writer of "Pulp Fiction" produced by a company that is also trying to make a biopic about a porn star. It's not going to be an easy road for Verhoeven, but, considering he has been concentrating his directorial efforts in his native Holland (and Muse works primarily on indies), this probably won't get the wide release and attention of "The Passion of the Christ" and may safely fly under the radar. Christ believed in redemption, so we wish them luck on this endeavor. [Deadline]

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34 Comments

  • BT | August 22, 2012 3:57 PMReply

    "From the director of 'Showgirls'"...That's precisely the kind of tagline a film based on the "scholarship" of the so-called "Jesus Seminar" deserves.

  • Risha | July 25, 2012 11:58 PMReply

    May Our Lord Jesus have pardon on you all...

  • Jan | July 25, 2012 7:55 PMReply

    PARDON PRAYER:
    My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.

  • Ritta | July 22, 2012 12:15 PMReply

    Not gona go down to this level of those ignorance like that verhoeven cause Jesus is not waiting for those piece of shot to judge him
    R.I.P verhoven hehe

  • Zack | July 22, 2012 2:09 PM

    You're "not gona[sic] go down to this level of those ignorance", but you are going to giggle about the idea of Paul Verhoeven dying?

  • John Halley | July 21, 2012 9:04 PMReply

    I hope that Verhoeven and any other idiots that might consider being a part of this project in any way understand that they will be financially boycotted forever by millions of Christians. That means any theater that would consider showing it, distributors, actors, finaciers, and any others that contribute to this blasphemous movie. They must believe that Christians are free game for their disgusting vicious attacks. We are not martyrs who will just stand in the areana waiting for the lions. When you attack our religion you are attacking us at the most fundamental level of our being. While we may pray for their souls, we will do everything in our power to stop this blasphemy and nasty attack on our religious beliefs.

  • Ed-M | August 24, 2012 6:26 PM

    "We are not martyrs who will just stand in the areana waiting for the lions." Yeah, you guys have been the lions for seventeen hundred years, thanks to the criminal Constantine who re-invented Christianity into a state religion.

  • Loretta Fowler | July 21, 2012 4:43 PMReply

    Paul Verhoeven and his book Jesus of Nazareth is evil and should be condemned in every possible way. The #l proof is the Catholic Church which has existed for 2000 years, has survived many attacks but as Jesus promised "the gates of Hell will not prevail against it"!!

  • Mari Bramhall | July 21, 2012 11:49 AMReply

    You my not be aware of this. But people in America and the world are SICK and tired of you pornography and violence....But most of all on your persecution to anything that is SACRED!
    Please STOP your agonizing minds from poisoning the world

  • Kay | July 20, 2012 8:24 PMReply

    Jesus Of Nazareth, is an abomination, The Bible isn't racy enough for Hollywood? really? If you read the Bible you would find more than enough to make a successful movie. Shame!

  • Joey | July 20, 2012 7:25 PMReply

    take a look for yourself:

    youshallbelieve.com / loveandmercy.org
    directionforourtimes.org
    holylove.org

  • Barbara | July 20, 2012 4:48 PMReply

    Jesus of Nazareth is a shamefull story that you are potraing. Shame on you. Not any amount in the World will make me mock God.

  • Dick Murphy | July 19, 2012 3:20 PMReply

    If you don't take Jesus at his word and the words of those who knew him or got the information from those who knew him you've got to come up with something. The laugh is the old radical prophet or great teacher dodge. It's something Hollywood would fall for. If that's all he was he was also the world's greatest con man. Again, perfect for Hollywood.

  • Steven | June 22, 2012 7:28 PMReply

    Lars, interesting that you detected it: Verhoeven has studied Koine Greek somewhat, though I don't know how fluent a reader he is. There are a few separate issues embedded within your remarks, which bear on Verhoeven's book and movie plans.

    First: Reading Koine Greek is a great help, but it will take training as exegete, which I do have, and familiarity with the lexical and philological tools for exegesis, which I have used, to open up the texts. There are perhaps a few literal-leaning (except for Revelation) evangelicals who'd like to think that there is some pristine Greek text -- that a facile Greek reader might master -- but the commonly used Nestle-Aland is after, is the work of committees drawing on variant manuscript traditions. All that being said, modern English translations are quite good (though admittedly, the sentence structures are those of English, which depends on sentence order to convey syntax).

    But it takes far more to exegete the gospels than simply reading Greek. An understanding of the historical critical approach that has dominated NT studies for a hundred years is required. And today there are a plurality of critical approaches that yield various results -- a single hermeneutical angling could miss crucial information. (Examples: structural criticism, rhetorical criticism, postcolonial criticism, social science criticism.) A simple example: the prevailing view among mainline scholars is that Jesus' conflicts with "scribes and Pharisees" in the gospels are either retrojections of early Christian conflicts with their fellow Jews put into the mouth of the gospel character Jesus, or they are exaggerated. For the sake of space I'll simply refer you to E. P. Sanders' "Jesus and Judaism." But you'll never get to this simply because you know Greek. Only a naive reading, Greek or English, of the gospels would conclude that because the character Jesus in a gospel did or said something, therefore it surely happened.

    The important question, if one wishes to take Verhoeven seriously, is: what is the methodology with which Verhoeven arrives at the positions I've mentioned about the Historical Jesus? (As I indicated he seems familiar with some of the major literature and mostly likely gets some things right. ) But his desire to portray Jesus as 1) the result of a rape by a Roman soldier presumably putting a rebellion at Sepphoris, and 2) as a violent revolutionary, whose 2) career began with the Temple incident and continued as a life fleeing the wrath of angry priests, is unsupported by any rigorous methodology. He makes barstool arguments based on ostensible hunches, or rather, forced arguments derived from the outcomes he'd like to find -- because they'd make exciting drama. That's what I meant by "moviemaker logic."

  • Tony | June 22, 2012 2:47 PMReply

    Terrific, looking forward to it. As I am of their interpretations and bio-pics of Buddah, Vishnu, and of coarse they can't forget the sure to be a "block buster" depiction of Mohammed. No....wait, that wouldn't be prudent after all Mr. Verhoevens' compatriot film maker Mr. Van Gogh is sure to share with him....oh wait.......his film was panned by a very influential "critic"!

  • Anna | July 19, 2012 12:56 PM

    ...a couple of real sick puppies!!

  • anderson | June 22, 2012 3:54 PM

    Right, because if Western filmmakers want to make movies about the religion they were raised on, the one that that essentially shaped Western civilization, they must also make movies about other cultures' religious figures! That makes sense. (Ever consider that maybe, just maybe, Verhoeven is more interested in Jesus than he is in Muhammad? I know, hard to believe it!)

  • Steven Deedon | June 22, 2012 1:28 PMReply

    As I've written elsewhere, Verhoeven's ideas about Jesus were largely in direct contradiction to the majority of the Jesus Seminar scholars he likes to associate himself with. When he presented his ideas to members of the Seminar, he was told so.

    His view of Jesus as a violent revolutionary has no support among the major Jesus scholars who treat the sociopolitical situation of Palestine as a subjugated "colony" of the Roman empire. His depiction of Jesus as the result of a Roman soldier's rape of Mary is sheer fantasy, roughly analogous to the utterly unsupportable nonsense about Jesus and Mary Magdalene as lovers, or Judas as the secret ally of Jesus. There is one minor scholar who raised the THEORETICAL possibility of rape, but she herself denied that one could clearly conclude this from the evidence (or her scholarship). This fiction of a Roman soldier "Panthera" is based on anti-Christian vitriol from Jewish quarters long after Jesus' death, and some verbal wordplay. Verhoeven also argues for the rape from the fact that military routed a revolt led by Judas ben Hezekiah at Sepphoris, about AN HOUR'S WALK from Nazareth. This is children's logic. His claim that the scene in the Temple courtyard occurred early in Jesus' career, and that Jesus thus spent the significant part of his career on the lam from angry priests is found (to my knowledge) nowhere in the vast literature of Jesus studies; it's part of Verhoeven's make-believe version of Jesus.

    As early as 1980-81 I had been studying N. Perrin and J. D. Crossan and attended a mini-course on the Historical Jesus with John P. Meier, now the author of the magisterial Jesus scholarship, "A Marginal Jew." More recently I have attended courses at Yale Divinity School in Historical Jesus and related biblical studies and exegeted gospel material myself. I have personally consulted some of the most influential biblical scholars on the planet, including scholars associated with the Jesus Seminar. And I am member of the academic Jesus studies forum, crosstalk. I find Verhoeven's claim to be making a movie about the Historical Jesus a deceit. Verhoeven MAY have SOME exposure to the scholarship, but his desire to do a remake of Spartacus, dressed up as Jesus, and to force-fit the rape story, overrides his knowledge of the material. And his portayal of Jesus is too often based on on titillating "moviemaker logic," not critical historical thinking about Jesus and his times.

  • Steven Deedon | August 4, 2012 1:11 PM

    @Lars. I inadvertently erased this when editing the above: In the 1980s, E. P. Sanders, G. Vermes and J. Neusner helped focus attention on Jesus the Jew, and this has continued. It's no surprise that John P. Meier's magisterial work (the fifth volume in progress) is entitled, "A Marginal Jew." Accordingly scholars have given more attention to the Mishnah and Talmuds. This literature is dated from the early 3rd, and the 6th Centuries (and later?), respectively, but scholars look for traditions that may have been contemporaneous with Jesus' ministry. By comparison, the Targums (rather freely interpretive Aramaic versions of Hebrew Bible texts) are dated as 3rd Century, but scholars hold that the oral versions that were written down developed in 1st Century synagogues, where someone would translate the Hebrew readings for those assembled -- most Jews at the time did not read Hebrew.

  • Steven Deedon | August 4, 2012 12:58 PM

    @Lars. I wouldn't make much out of the presence of footnotes from the gospels in Verhoeven's book. It is necessary to reference the Synoptic gospels, since they and the work of Josephus are the primary textual materials for Jesus research. The issues are the methodologies for interpreting / contextualizing them and reconstructing an historical image of Jesus, and this takes far more than reading Greek. This is where Verhoeven swerves on the highway of scholarship with barstool arguments of his own. From my reading from and about the Jesus Seminar (I also know some of the participants), it appears that the desire for media attention, not Verhoeven's understanding of Koine Greek, that led them to allow him in as a member. It's important to remember that when he presented his ideas to the Jesus Seminar, he was told that they were all positions that the Seminar members had concluded were UNHISTORICAL.

    There are three methodological approaches to reconstructing an historical image of Jesus and his teachings. The results are stated as probabilities, not sureties. The methods are textual analysis, archaeology and the social sciences. Texts would include, e.g. the NT, Josephus, the OT Targums and the Pseudepigripha, and perhaps some comparative work, e.g. on apocalyptic/millenarian literature and perhaps Philo. Historical-critical, Structural and rhetorical analyses of parables have been extremely helpful. Readings in ancient Roman history and literature are also useful. Archaeology has contributed new versions of texts, but also a considerable amount of material culture from digs in Galilee, and in the case of Sepphoris, very strong evidence that this apparently Hellenized city near Nazareth was populated by observant Jews. The social sciences have contributed anthropological models (some over-applied), and extremely helpful info on the mores and ethos of the ancient Mediterranean world, and methods for understanding economic, and consequently social, conditions in Galilee in the 1st Century.

    To be fair, Verhoeven is familiar with some of the major work of Jesus scholars, and he does understand it, even if he sometimes dismisses it with unconvincing arguments apparently used to try to justify his own preference (for what is titillating or otherwise makes for a provocative story). Looking over footnotes of his book some time back, it struck me that he's been exposed to perhaps 10-20% of the main books in the field and almost nothing from the vast sea of scholarly journal literature.

  • Joey | July 20, 2012 7:23 PM

    Steven I think you might be interested in these links:

    directionforourtimes.org
    youshallbelieve.com / loveandmercy.org
    holylove.org

  • Lars | June 22, 2012 2:44 PM

    You say Verhoeven's claims are "found nowhere in the vast literature of Jesus studies" however his numerous footnotes indicate where all of his interpretations derive from within the gospels, which he read in Greek. Have you read the Gospels in Greek?

  • Ryan | June 21, 2012 4:38 PMReply

    facepalmed so hard it left a mark.

  • Taganrog | June 21, 2012 8:19 AMReply

    Google Alerts is the worst invention ever. Hands up who had "Jesus" as a search term?

  • Stevo the Magnificent | June 21, 2012 4:43 AMReply

    Paul Verhoeven may be a terrific director, but he's a lousy Biblical scholar, this movie (and the book) flies in the face of two centuries of evidence that Jesus was who he said he was, and Verhoeven will be standing before Him one day to give account of his life...wouldn't want to be him then! This film will likely be a relatively low-budget affair shot in Morocco or somewhere with a limited release, although the inevitable controversy may give it a bit of momentum, but a film directed by an anti-semitic director (Verhoeven called Israel a "fascist state") and written by a convicted murderer doesn't exactly exude credibility to me, may God forgive them both...

  • Zack | July 22, 2012 2:13 PM

    Evangelicals go nuts at anyone who criticizes Israeli policies because they think Israel is necessary for Jesus to come back and either convert or kill all the Jews before giving Israel to Christians. But no, it's the critics of Israel who are anti-Semitic.

  • dave | June 21, 2012 6:27 AM

    1) "two centuries of evidence that Jesus was who he said he was." There is NO such evidence. 2) "low-budget" ... "with a limited release." So what? 3) "an anti-semitic director (Verhoeven called Israel a 'fascist state')." Criticizing Israel's policies makes one anti-semitic? Nice try. 4) "...doesn't exactly exude credibility to me." Didn't you just call him a terrific director?

  • artcorvelet | June 20, 2012 10:20 PMReply

    Note to Roger Avary and Paul Vergelhooglemeistershmoopen:
    Ever heard the phrase 'Vengeance is mine says the Lord...?'
    You might want to make sure and duck!

  • Leigh | June 20, 2012 9:31 PMReply

    Hey Lars fuck you-

    He was drunk off his ass when he got in the car accident and killed somebody. That's murder.

    Love how you write about it, using such phrases as "his friend perished" etc. You make ol' Roger sound almost like a hero.

    I bet the so called friend's family sees it a whole lot differently than you.

    THOSE ARE THE FACTS! Oh, and there is one more, Lars (hope I'm spelling your name right). By making light of the whole situation shows me you are as vile a person as he is.

  • Lars | June 21, 2012 11:50 AM

    The fact is that manslaughter for an accident is not murder. That's a fact.

    And there's no need for foul language.

  • Xian | June 20, 2012 3:57 PMReply

    Er, um... wasn't this already made by Scorsese ("Last Temptation of Christ")? Just sayin'... unless Jebus is killing vampires, there's nothing new to say. (Oh, wait, there's a movie called "Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter" that's already walked across that particular body of water).

  • USC Filmschool | June 20, 2012 11:58 AMReply

    Roger Avery just got out of prison for killing somebody. This is not a lie. He is a convicted murderer. The perfect kinda guy to write a 21st century post-"Passion" Jesus movie.

  • Lars | June 20, 2012 12:46 PM

    He's not a murderer, bonehead. He had a vehicle accident where his friend perished and he served his time. And you misspelled his name...so maybe you should check your facts before you post the equivalent of a lie.

  • d | June 20, 2012 11:34 AMReply

    Yay!

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