Having graduated from a Christian elementary/ junior high school and a Christian college (BIOLA University, where every student automatically minors in religion), I thought I was more than prepared to find 20th Century Fox’s new film SON OF GOD rather unsurprising. Needless to say, it wasn’t at all. Breathing new life into the New Testament text that follows the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, producers Mark Burnett (SURVIVOR), Roma Downey (TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL) and star Diogo Morgada (aka. “hot” Jesus) have crafted a staggeringly emotional film bound to impact believers and non-believers alike.
Since I had so much fun at the press day for the film, I wanted to share with you a few of the most fascinating things the passionate cast and crew shared with a few of us parent bloggers.
5. SON OF GOD began its journey to the big screen as the Jesus chapter from The History Channel’s THE BIBLE mini-series. Since the cable mini-series blew the competition out of the water in the ratings when it debuted in 2013, Burnett and Downey felt the series’ scope and scale would translate easily to the big screen. Burnett says, “As we were looking at the short edits of the clips, Roma said to me, ‘We should have been making a movie. To see it on the small screen – we’ve got an obligation now. Can you imagine this on the giant screen?’” We talked and even though we didn’t know if anyone would allow us to put it in the theater, let’s spend the money to make it anyway. We knew the minimum we could do was to spend our own money and be able to put it in a few theaters. But 20th “It’s such a God thing how it started its life out small. It really deserves this cinematic adaptation.”
4. Diogo Morgada did much more than read the Bible to play Jesus. He says, “I started out facing it as an acting thing. I did my research – everything about the Bible (for and against). The next thing I did was go to Jerusalem. I was next to the [wailing] wall and there was a father and a ten-year-old kid praying. I stood there for almost three hours and when I left, they were still praying. That’s when I realized there’d be no acting skills or books that could help me in this. Whatever I was going to do would be affecting that kid and his father. My responsibility would be bigger than I thought. How do you prepare? You don’t. You have to dive into yourself and be available for love and compassion and always stay in that area. And, at the same time, always make it as fresh as possible. I tried to make him more in a human condition.”
3. SON OF GOD’s narrative has modern day relevance. 2014 will mark the second coming of Biblical epics hitting the big screen. With this feature and the impending release of director Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH and director Ridley Scott’s EXODUS, Hollywood studios have tapped into the cultural zeitgeist ushering in a worldwide movement. Downey says, “We’ve tried to present it in a way where on the one hand, it’s a political thriller. You have these three groups colliding in Jerusalem with a ticking clock which creates this very tense and dramatic few days. And at the same time it’s this beautiful love story. Our hope was to create something that was an epic thriller and the other hand, a deeply personal experience.” Morgada agrees, “This is a story about love. You can’t argue with the message of turning the other cheek.”
2. SON OF GOD was heavily influenced by GLADIATOR and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. In addition to filming in Morocco, in the same locations and pre-existing sets as the aforementioned Ridley Scott films, the pair utilized a few other vital members of those films’ creative team. Downey says, “Music is another character in any piece. And the music of Hans Zimmer with vocals by Lisa Gerrard transports you to another place.” Burnett breaks in, “Lisa Gerrard’s voice helps make it…open up this heart. GLADIATOR did that very well. We brought in the same special effects guys to do our special effects. So we went all out to not make this some little Bible movie.” Downey adds, “It was important to bring the highest production quality to all areas of this film.”
1. Jesus’ crucifixion in SON OF GOD isn’t handled in quite in the same way as THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. When adapting the biographical tale of Jesus, filmmakers were faced with a challenge of how to not shy away from the violence during Christ’s crucifixion. While I’d say this film is not for audiences younger than 10, teen/ adult audiences will be pleased at how the sequence is shot and assembled – specifically as compared to PASSION’s portrayal (which plays out like “torture porn” cinema). SON OF GOD utilizes cutaways and other filmmaking techniques in order to hammer home the scene’s emotional power. Burnett states, “Cutting away to the mother… I think there’s a very important part here with Roma portraying Mary to make you feel the pain without having to show the pain. You don’t have to show a nail going through a hand. You see the nail and the hammer and then it cuts to her face.” Downey concurs, “We didn’t want the violence to be gratuitous in any way. The crucifixion is still hard to watch but we edited it with care and sensitivity.” Morgada says, “[This] is an emotional journey of the life of Jesus. So the violence is emotional – not visual. The goal here is the emotional journey, as the viewer, with Jesus.” Downey goes on further to say, “We got a PG-13 rating because we wanted this to be a family experience. We wanted to be a movie to bring the kids and the parents and have an opportunity afterwards to talk about the story – about the wider conversation.”
SON OF GOD opens in wide release on February 28 in English, Spanish and Korean.
Courtney Howard is the Senior Editor/ LA Correspondent for VeryAware.com. She also is a contributing writer for ReelVixen.com. She resides in Southern California with her husband and perfect little dachshund.
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