"Risen" Depicts the Resurrection as Historical and Theological Mystery | CWR Staff | Catholic World Report
The cast and crew talk about AFFIRM Film’s new movie, starring Joseph Fiennes, which follows a Roman centurion’s hunt for the risen Christ
The Biblical epic, once a mainstay in the film industry of a bygone era, may be poised for a comeback. 2014 saw the release of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah as well as Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. While these large scale films were being developed to give Old Testament stories a cinematic facelift for a post-Lord of the Rings audience, AFFIRM Films—Sony Pictures’ faith-based production house—had been tinkering around with a project pitched loosely as a follow-up to Mel Gibson’s landmark 2004 film The Passion of the Christ. That film, set to be released on February 19th, is Risen.
The film follows a hardened Roman Centurion named Clavius, played by Joseph Fiennes, who is tasked by Pontius Pilate with tracking down the stolen body of Yeshua, the recently crucified “Nazarene” whose followers claim has risen from the dead. Taking a page from such classics as The Robe, the film abstains from following a straightforward Resurrection narrative that might remain focused on Christ and the disciples, instead opting to frame the story from the perspective of a non-believing Roman.
Making a film that harkened back to the age of the religious epic is precisely what producer Micky Liddell had intended to do. “I grew up on The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur and all those incredible movies,” says Liddell. Trying to recapture films of those caliber is in fact one the reasons the producer embarked into Hollywood. “They’re why I wanted to move here. But when I got here, for some reason, I felt like there was a backlash and people were not making those movies at that kind of quality. So that was the goal of it, was to try to emulate some of those great movies of the past that are loved and play every year and still hold up.”
Liddell’s company LD Entertainment is helping to distribute the film alongside Columbia Pictures. The film’s production is nearly ten years in the making, as the script ran through some overhauls as development unfolded. The team vetted the story with everyone from priests to academics to try and whittle it down to the most authentic representation of time, place, and characterization. “There have been, over ten years, so many drafts it would take over ten minutes to name all the people we had shown them to,” says Pete Shilaimon, another producer on the film. “It was really important to get as many people’s feedback before we started shooting this movie with this script.”
While approaching the story of Christ from the perspective of an outsider character has a firm precedent in classics such as Ben Hur and The Robe, taking a modern film in this direction could have the faith-based target audience cautious about “artistic license”. With films such as Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings taking liberties with the Old Testament to make their films more accessible to wider audiences, such a concern is not completely unfounded.
There’s no proselytizing agenda, but we do want to present the creative vision of the writer, director and the producers,” says Rich Peluso, Senior Vice President at AFFIRM.