Top billing seems to be going to The Thick of it/In the Loop's Peter Capaldi who will play one of the wise men (Balthazar). Quite how much screen time Capaldi will get remains to be seen. The programme, which will be shown in four parts, will "focus on the love story between Mary and Joseph and their 'emotional turmoil' over her pregnancy".1 I can't help but think that, come the broadcast, I might find myself hoping that the wise men will get sufficiently lost to enable Balthazar to really lose it. But in all seriousness a more restrained performance is probably what he needs right now.
Other actors include Art Malik as Nicolaus, Andrew Buchan as Joseph, Tatiana Maslany as Mary, and Vincent Regan as Herod. I've long been a fan of Malik's and thought he would be well suited to a role in a Jesus film. 2010 has obviously been his year for that: he also features in this year's Ben Hur. Buchan was good value in Cranford and I suspect he'll be a good, if a little traditional, Joseph. I thought Maslany and Regan were both new to me, but Maslany provided a voice in Eastern Promises and Regan has good epic-film form having had smaller parts in Troy, 300, Jeremiah, Clash of the Titans and Joan of Arc/The Messenger.
The Nativity has been written by former Eastenders writer Tony Jordan. Three years ago Jordan revealed, in an interview with The Guardian that he'd been working on the script for two years, which means that it's been a five year project for him. Stark contrast with Mike Rich who penned the script for The Nativity Story in just 6 weeks (although had researched it for a year before hand)2. Jordan's Red Planet Pictures are producing and there are a few pictures showing there on their page on the programme.The first photograph here appeals to me more than the second. The blue dress gives a strong nod to tradition, but a weaker nod to historical probability. I think I prefer the grittier approach to the material as found in the earlier parts of The Nativity Story. Mind you all that had evaporated by the time baby Jesus arrived so it's not a fair comparison, and this is just a publicity shot, so I'll withold judgement until I've actually seen it, particularly given so many of the other quotations surrounding the film seem so positive.
All in all it seems that this film will be something of a prequel to the BBC's The Passion (2008). Certainly more in that direction that The Liverpool Nativity from 2007. Hopefully I'll be able to find out a bit more about this over the next few weeks. Roll on Christmas.