Mel Gibson finds himself irresistibly drawn to The Passion

Preview by Jack Foley

HAVING won an Oscar for his directorial debut about the life of William Wallace (Braveheart), Mel Gibson is now turning to Jesus Christ for his follow-up project.

The jovial star, currently appearing in M Night Shyamalan’s Signs, has announced plans to direct The Passion, a movie focusing on the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ, which will be made entirely in the ancient languages of Latin and Aramaic, without any subtitles.

The move is a bold choice for Gibson, particularly as no American studio has, as yet, expressed an interest in distributing the movie in the US. But the actor is hoping to be able to ‘transcend language barriers with visual storytelling’.

Speaking at a press conference at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios recently, where the project will begin shooting in November, Gibson is fully aware that people will think he is crazy and confessed that ‘maybe, I am’. But he added: "Maybe, I’m a genius as well."

He went on: "Obviously, nobody wants to touch something filmed in two dead languages. But I think this is a pretty timeless and timely story to tell, involving an area where there's turbulence now, just as there was turbulence then because history repeats itself."

The movie may not have attracted the big distributors so far, but it has attracted some fairly big names, with The Thin Red Line’s Jim Caviezel already cast as Jesus Christ and Italian actress Monica Bellucci (of The Brotherhood of the Wolf and Matrix Reloaded fame) in talks to co-star as Mary Magdalene.

Whether the film will stick loyally to the story of Jesus, as recounted in The Bible, remains to be seen, however, as previous attempts to adapt the story on the Big Screen have been steeped in controversy - none more so than Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ.

Gibson, though, remains passionately committed to the project, having recently completed filming The Singing Detective. He hopes that the power of the movie will be such that there is no need for subtitles, although if it fails initially, he will reluctantly add them.

And if fans remain sceptical about the director’s ability to deliver such a story on the Big Screen, then they should remember that 1995’s Braveheart won a total of five Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director, despite being accused of taking historical liberties (a practise which is becoming all too common among Hollywood’s elite).

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