Every once in a while we bear witness to the cinematic resurrection of the messiah. He is absent from the silver screen for a period of years, and then, all at once, it’s as if Hollywood suddenly remembers that there is a market for film adaptations of Bible stories. We find ourselves on the cusp of one such movie wave, as last year saw the release of Last Days In The Desert, February gave us Risen by Kevin Reynolds, news has broken of a Mary Magdalene biopic in development, and now, Oscar nominated screenwriter Randall Wallace has confirmed plans for a sequel to 2004’s The Passion Of The Christ.
Directed by Academy Award winner Mel Gibson, and co-written by Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald, The Passion Of The Christ is a brutal, graphic depiction of the final 12 hours of the life of Jesus Of Nazareth – featuring torture and crucifixion – adapted from the Bible and other devotional writings. While hugely controversial, the film was a giant commercial success – generating $612 million against a $30 million budget – and in that respect, it could be argued that a sequel was as inevitable as they always are in Hollywood.
Regularly collaborating with Mel Gibson, Randall Wallace has been helping to promote the upcoming Hacksaw Ridge – which he co-wrote with Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight, and which Gibson has directed. In doing so, he discussed the sequel to The Passion Of The Christ with The Hollywood Reporter – confirming that he is writing the screenplay, and that it will centre upon the resurrection.
“I always wanted to tell this story. The Passion is the beginning and there’s a lot more story to tell.”
Financing has yet to be secured, however.
“The evangelical community considers The Passion the biggest movie ever out of Hollywood, and they kept telling us that they think a sequel will be even bigger. It’s too early to talk money. This is such a huge and sacred subject.”
While the involvement of Mel Gibson is not confirmed, the circumstances under which this project has come to light would suggest the filmmaker has some part to play in its production – whether that is as director, or in some other capacity, remains to be seen. The idea of a sequel to his 2004 hit film raises some issues, however.
Firstly, with the problem of Hollywood white-washing being a much hotter topic today than it was a decade ago, the casting of a Passion sequel will undoubtedly be highly scrutinized. Mel Gibson went to great lengths to ensure the dialogue of The Passion Of The Christ was delivered in Latin and Aramaic for the purpose of authenticity, but its cast featured few people of colour – despite its Middle Eastern setting. Secondly, if a Passion sequel does as well, if not better, at the box office than its predecessor, would that constitute a next-level commercialization of organized religion? With Hollywood studios involved, will the next step be a cohesive cinematic Bible universe?
The road ahead may be a rocky one for Randall Wallace and Mel Gibson, with a sequel to The Passion Of The Christ – but if the 2004 film taught us anything, it is that there is an audience big enough to resurrect potential box office glory for all those involved.