Back in April, I mentioned news that following on from the Manchester Passion the BBC were planning to film a dramatised series on the life of Christ for Easter 2008. I've been eagerly awaiting more details on this project and Mark Goodacre has just revealed he has something of inside track on things. Whilst he's obviously not been able to talk about his involvement thus far, The Stage has a story on the film, which looks like it's going to be called The Passion.
Frank Deasy, one of the writers of Prime Suspect, will pen the BBC’s new £4 million drama The Passion, which is understood to be scheduled for 2008.This is all good news. I don't know much about Frank Deasy, other than that Prime Suspect was well thought of. However, I enjoyed Bleak House on the whole, and Mark's involvement is encouraging, particularly if they are going to take on board what he actually says. He is the ideal man for the job given his media experience, academic expertise and love of Jesus film.
The mini-series will follow the week leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Producer Nigel-Stafford Clark, who recently worked on the Corporation’s award-winning adaptation of Bleak House, told MediaGuardian that he had selected Deasy because he had an instinctive understanding of the task.
It is reported that the format will take the same soap opera scheduling approach as Bleak House - in half hour episodes each night.
The production, which was the brainchild of the BBC religion department, will also see input from new head of religion and ethics, Michael Wakelin, while Mark Goodacre, a British academic expert on Jesus, has also been engaged as a consultant.
Whilst the budget of £4 million would be nothing for a Hollywood film (even Gibson's self-financed film cost $25 million), it isn't bad for a BBC TV production. Bleak House, with a running time of around 7 hours, looked lush on a budget of £6 million, so hopefully this shorter project (6 half hour episodes), will fare just as well.
That story refers to this one from the Guardian, which also includes the following:
Stafford-Clark's vision of bold, simple storytelling, and will fully characterise the other figures involved in the story. For example, the disciples will be distinctive individuals and the scribes and Pharisees will be fleshed out rather than portrayed simply as cartoon villains.Of course it's par for the course that film-makers claim their films will be "historical". I also can't help but wonder about Stafford-Clark's comments about "cartoon villains", in the light of the fairly cartoonish portrayals of several of the characters in Bleak House such as Johnny Vegas's Krook. It's interesting that both sources present their villains fairly one-dimensionally, but in the earlier production that was built up, whereas here they sound like they are looking to down-play it.
The Passion will set the drama in an historical and political context and will tell the story from three points of view: Jesus; the Romans - headed by Pontius Pilate; and the religious authorities.
Stafford-Clark points to Pasolini's 1964 film, The Gospel According to St Matthew, as the style he admires, rather than the violence of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ or Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, which portrayed Jesus as a man with sexual passions...
...Deasy will write the first draft of scripts during the autumn, with filming on location in the second half of 2007, ahead of broadcast in 2008. The production is expected to sell around the world, appeal to family audiences, and will cost in excess of £4m.