Wednesday, December 05, 2007

BBC Passion in the News

Following on from yesterday's press release, lots of today's papers have picked up on the news about BBC's Passion drama (co-produced with HBO). Perhaps most surprisingly, it even makes it into The Sun where it is described as "a controversial new drama", and there is a nice picture of James Nesbitt (most recently seen in Jekyll), who plays Pontius Pilate. The Times has perhaps the fullest and most interesting article:

Sopranos herald retelling of Passion
After a year of scandal, BBC One has found God. The final week of Christ’s life will be dramatised in a £4 million series that rehabilitates Pontius Pilate.

The Passion, a co-production with HBO, the American company behind The Sopranos, will run nightly, in soap-style episodes, across the Easter week next year.

Joseph Mawle, 33, a relative unknown, will play Jesus in the first television attempt to present the greatest story ever told since Robert Powell starred in the 1977 series Jesus Of Nazareth. Written by Frank Deasy, who won an Emmy for the final instalment of Prime Suspect, The Passion will challenge popular assumptions surrounding the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Pilate, played by James Nesbitt, is shown as a troubled Roman prefect who is forced to clamp down on insurgents running riot in Jerusalem.

The Resurrection will be depicted in a deliberately ambiguous manner, which may anger Christian groups when the series is shown in the United States.

Nigel Stafford-Clark, the producer, told The Times: “The challenge is to rescue the Passion from myth and tell it as an exciting, unfolding story.” . . .
(There is more). Once again it is described as "Easter Week" when they mean Holy Week. I don't think it's quite right to say that it "rehabilitates Pilate" though it is the case that all the characters in the drama are well-drawn, three-dimensional characters. I would also doubt that the depiction of the resurrection will "anger Christian groups" in the US, though you can never predict these things. I have not yet seen the episode, but what I can say on the basis of the scripts and the extensive discussions about them is that it is depicted in a very interesting and fresh way, quite unlike anything in previous Jesus films.

This is London also has an interesting take:

Jesus Back on TV . . . Thirty Years After Robert Powell's Epic
. . . . The new £4million series has been produced by Nigel Stafford-Clark, who is seeking to repeat the success of the half-hour-episodes format he used to critical acclaim with the BBC's adaptation of Dickens's Bleak House in 2005. 'It is a more extreme version of what we faced with Bleak House,' says Stafford-Clark. 'The stakes are higher, the risk greater.'

Filmed during the summer in Morocco, The Passion has been scripted by Irish screenwriter Frank Deasy, of Prime Suspect fame, and is an attempt to give substance to the characters surrounding Christ. The disciples are portrayed as distinctive individuals, while the scribes and Pharisees will be fleshed out, rather than depicted as cartoon villains . . . .

. . . . At 33, Oxford-based Joseph Mawle is the same age as Christ at the time of his crucifixion. Mawle's last television appearance was in the controversial drama Clapham Junction, in which his character was sexually assaulted by a male teenager who had become obsessed with him . . . .
Meanwhile, Inspire Magazine announces that Churches Welcome BBC Passion series, noting that "Andrew Graystone, Director of the Churches’ Media Council, encouraged the Christian community to welcome the BBC’s Passion unreservedly."

The news was announced in several other outlets including Variety, World Screen, Hollywood Reporter, The Stage and The Guardian.


Jim said...

Will it air in the States?

Mark Goodacre said...

Hi Jim. Yes, it will be on HBO. It's most likely to air in 2009 in the USA, though.