By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood February 27, 2014 at 4:20PM
Jesus did not chase the money changers out of the temple yesterday. But his producers– Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (TV's "The Bible") -- did ring the closing bell at one of New York’s temples of money yesterday afternoon. Needless to say, the NASDAQ closed up.
Jesus himself – sorry, we mean Diogo Morgado, Portuguese soap actor and star of the Burnett-Roma produced “Son of God” which Twentieth Century Fox opens Friday – is helping to bring the greatest story ever told back to theaters for the first time since director Mel Gibson flogged Jim Caviezel in “The Passion of the Christ" (2004). Unlike “Passion,” Morgado’s movie does not subject his Jesus to endless scourging, or the Jews to libelous accusations. But like Gibson and Caviezel, Morgado is a true believer, and found his Jesus during a trip to Israel, a journey that “actually that changed my approach to the role.”
“I realized,” Morgado said, “that there wouldn’t be a book or an acting class that could teach me how to do this. It had to be done by heart. And I had to stay away from the kind of rationality an actor usually employs."
He said his first instinct was to start doing research, reading and watching everything he could. But in Jerusalem he went to the Wall, where he saw a father and a son, “maybe 10. They were praying when I got there and I stood there for two and a half hours reading and they prayed the whole time I was there. A 10-year-old praying for two hours next to the wall made me realize the story is bigger than I ever thought.”
One of the more daunting questions he’s gotten, he said, is about how daunting it is to play Jesus Christ.
“Everyone asks me,” he said with a laugh. “It’s so hard to describe it. First of all there’s the responsibility, and then there’s the challenge of taking something like this and doing it in a different way than has been portrayed before. It’s been 50 years since the life of Jesus was on screen,” he said, referring to “The Greatest Story Ever Told (“The Passion” only concerned Jesus's last hours). “It’s really super overwhelming. There are not even words to describe it. At some point, I had to stop thinking about it.”