It seems that Hollywood, never known for embracing religion, has finally found it – at least as a way to take in big box office revenue.
A number of high-profile, star-studded epics based on stories from the Bible are in the works. The biggest is Paramount Pictures’Noah, a $125 million production starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Noah will connect with religious Americans who “may not necessarily go to more than one or two movies a year,” said Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore.
In addition to Noah, Steven Spielberg is in talks with Warner Bros. to direct a film about Moses called Gods and Kings. Another Moses project, Exodus, is in development at 20th Century Fox, with Ridley Scott expected to direct. Sony Pictures is developing The Redemption of Cain, a supernatural film loosely inspired by the fratricidal tale of Cain and Abel, a project slated to be Will Smith’s directorial debut.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood turned out numerous big budget biblical spectacles such as The Ten Commandments and The Bible, John Huston’s epic 1966 production of the first part of the book of Genesis, covering Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, and Abraham and Isaac. Many more epic films were produced retelling the stories of Christian scriptures.
There was a void in (Jewish) biblical films in the 1970s, 80s and 90s (unless you want to stretch it and consider Mel Brooks’ raucous 1981 History of the World: Part I, which featured Moses carrying three tablets and talking about the Fifteen Commandments, only to drop one tablet and quickly cover up by saying, “Oy! Ten…Ten Commandments for all to obey.”)
The current appeal of producing stories from the Bible could involve several factors, chief among them that studios do not have to bother with acquiring screen rights as the Bible is public domain. Also, with all of the stories of floods, fires, and other disasters, biblical projects lend themselves to being highly visual films that could benefit from the recent advances in computerized special effects and 3D.
As for Noah, Paramount’s Moore said his studio plans to market the film to both the secular and more religious moviegoing public. “To the frequent moviegoer, we’ll be selling it as an action-adventure movie with spectacular visual effects and with great filmmakers and an amazing cast,” Moore said. “[We will also be] directly appealing to groups who we hope will come to it as a way to talk about and think about a story of faith, either with their family or even potentially reaching out to youth groups.”
Noah is scheduled for a March 2014 release.