Son of God film seeks to impact many hearts and even enlighten Hollywood
By JOHN FORTMEYER
BEAVERTON — A preview showing weeks ago at the Century Theater here gave a small audience a sneak peak at something grabbing the nation’s attention in a huge way this month.
“Big and epic and sweeping” is how famed actress Roma Downey, joined by husband Mark Burnett in a telephone interview with Christian News Northwest, days afterward described their major motion picture Son of God, which opened nationally Feb. 28.
Across the nation, pastors and Christian leaders at press time for this newspaper were joining a campaign to promote the Gospel message by buying out multiplex cinema screens during premiere week of the film. It is made up of footage from last year’s 10-hour TV miniseries The Bible, but re-edited to focus on Jesus.
Not since Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ a decade ago has a movie about Jesus garnered this much advance attention. However, Downey — the popular star of TV’s Touched by an Angel who portrays Jesus’ mother Mary in Son of God and who has co-produced the movie with famed TV producer Burnett, noted that Gibson’s movie only focused on three days of Jesus’ earthly walk, while Son of God offers an overview of Jesus’ complete life. The last major motion picture to do that, she said, was The Greatest Story Ever Told, in 1965.
With gripping performances by its cast — including Portugese actor Diogo Morgado, who plays Jesus — the movie also features exotic locales, dazzling special effects and a rich orchestral score from Oscar award-winning composer Hans Zimmer.
“The end result is breathtaking,” said Downey in the brogue of her native Ireland. We just are hopeful that in a world that needs hope, that the movie will be a light.”
Known in Hollywood circles for their strong Christian faith, she and Burnett — a native of Great Britain who has produced multiple TV network hits including Survivor, The Voice and Shark Tank — persuaded the History Channel last year to air their miniseries The Bible. That series produced massive ratings never before seen in cable TV and has now been viewed by 100 million people worldwide.
Based on the huge success of the TV series, Downey and Burnett prayerfully decided to adapt the segments dealing with the life of Jesus into the major movie. In recent weeks, they have been interviewed multiple times in a wide range of both secular and Christian TV, radio and print media across the nation about the film.
Burnett told Christian News Northwest that they felt it important from the start to strive for high quality in the production.
“I think there are two critical things in making any TV show or film around sacred text,” he said. “First of all, it needs to honor the text and spirit of the love story that the text is. Second, that it’s really good. Any-thing that’s made needs to play at the high secular level, and needs to be accurate.”
Downey said the movie presents the Gospel message in a contemporary way for audiences today. “For a whole generation, we believe Son of God will be the visual they think of when they hear the Gospel,” she said.
Efforts like Downey’s and Burnett’s are clearly capturing the attention of Hollywood’s as well. A story last month on the news web site TheDailyBeast.com was headlined “Hollywood declares 2014 the Year of the Bible.” It outlined that over the next 11 months, major studios are planning to release more big Biblical movies than they put out during the previous 11 years combined, “and the trend shows no signs of slowing down in 2015 or beyond.”
For more on Son of God, go to sonofgodmovie.com.