On March 31st Deadline broke news of a project that was being developed. Prior to this news breaking I was completely unaware of this project being in development. What is this project? WB is developing a film based on the life of the Apostle Paul! I know what you might be thinking. So what? Jesus will most likely appear as a young British boy who might be a figment of Paul’s imagination like in Exodus or Paul might be leading an army of Rock people that actually go into the world and build churches, similar to Noah. Is there a possibility this might be another Biblical Epic turned religiously ambiguous skeptical commentary? Yes… it is possible but why give up hope? I would allow for 15 attempts that disappoint to get one more Passion of the Christ! I wanted to take some time to examine why I think this project has a better chance already then Noah and Exodus.
The Deadline article was written in a peculiar way. Let me kind of sum up the article. Hugh Jackman is playing the Apostle Paul and also produce along with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck… and Jennifer Todd and some guy named Chris Clarke. The main subject of the article is Hugh Jackman. The story that broke is not focusing on the fact that this movie is in the works but rather Hugh Jackman is staring in it and helping to produce and with this breaking news the PR on this movie starts on a wrong foot with its target audience, the faith based crowd.
“But Reel Pastor, why do you say that?” even though I have not heard this yet because not many have actually become aware of this news, I can tell you what is going to be the backlash. “Hugh Jackman is a spiritualist.” Or they might say he is New Age, or Pagan, or Universalist or a student of Transcendental Meditation. Whatever the narrative becomes, they will most likely have good cause to think this way. Jackman has made it clear that he does not share the same belief as his Christian parents. When he married, he had a special engagement ring made for his wife that had the inscription “We dedicate our union to a greater source.” You know, whatever that greater source might be is the implication. He has talked in great lengths that his father is not pleased with his differing thoughts about God and religion. So yes, this will be the narrative I am sure. However, these people will be missing something in this article. Hugh Jackman is joining an already existing project! He is not the originator, he is not the driving force. He was brought on to play Paul and in doing so he also took on a larger role as one of the producers.
So, who should we look at for this film. Is it Matt Damon? Well, already we have a problem… his name is one letter away from Demon! He must be evil!… OK, I hope there won’t be any serious talk about this. From what I can tell, Matt Damon does not claim any religious beliefs. That is fine with me because I don’t think Demon… I mean Damon is the driving force behind this project either. Keep in mind I don’t have any inside knowledge of this project so I am simply speculating. However, having no claim to any religious persuasion would make it unlikely that he would try to push any other agenda into a project that is being made to appeal to a Christian demographic.
How about Ben Affleck? Well, here is where it gets interesting for me. I know for some, the inclusion of Ben Affleck might be a sour taste for this project. After all, the films he has directed have been filled with foul language, he acted in the movie Dogma which upset quite a few Christians and his political views are liberal as he is an outspoken supporter of the Democrat party (which is also one letter away from Demon-crat.) However, with all this in consideration I tell you that Ben Affleck’s involvement in this project is one of the things that gives me great hope! Let me break this down for you. Ben Affleck describes himself as being a “lapsed Protestant.” This means that he has at one time been a Protestant and even though the term “lapsed” implies he is no longer a Protestant the term is vague enough that he might consider himself lapsed for a wide variety of reasons that have nothing to do with disbelief. He might disagree with some doctrines, he might be disgruntled with the behavior of some who bear the name of Protestant. Many of these reasons, as a Pastor, I would love to discuss with him and try to convince him that these are not reasons to be a “lapsed Protestant” but one reason that I do not believe this is a cause for concern is that he still cares enough about Christianity to have his three children baptized in a United Methodist Church.
I guess the real question is, what is the possible outcome of a film being made by a person who at least loosely identifies or respects the foundation of the Christian belief? Well, how did it work for Mel Gibson? Gibson identifies as a Catholic but much of his behavior would say that he doesn’t hold to a very strict Catholicism. Affleck being attached to this project is a far cry from Atheist Ridley Scott’s attachment to Exodus or Agnostic Darren Aronofsky’s attachment to Noah. With the two latter examples you have directors who really have no reason to stay true to the source material. There is no belief in the overall premise of the source material. It was viewed by both as being simply a myth. However, with Affleck there is a basic belief shared in the source material. How strong is his faith in it? I couldn’t tell you, but it is there whether it be a little or a lot. Again, I don’t see any reason to believe that Affleck would be somehow less respectful of the story of Paul than Gibson was of the story of Jesus.
Another bonus of having Affleck attached is that it seems that everything Affleck touches recently gets nominated for many awards, including Oscars. If nothing else, I can say that this film will most likely be of high quality!
Yet, there are still two names mentioned in this article. One is Jennifer Todd who is mentioned simply because she is the president of Pearle Street Films, the film company started by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. He involvement is for that reason only. And that last name Chris Clarke is really the name to be focusing on. Unfortunately the article does not specify which Chris Clarke they are talking about. If you try to research Chris Clarke you might find a few different possibilities however, the one that IMDB.com is attaching to these news articles is a man who does not have anything but a credit on the music department for Star Wars. This Chris Clarke, according to Deadline is the originator of this project. This is the man who has been the champion of this project. It is exciting for me to see Affleck attached but I want to know more about Chris Clarke!
So, even though this Deadline article focuses on Hugh Jackman, he is the newcomer to the project. He is the one who, thus far, has had nothing to do with the project beyond scoring the lead role. Yet the person that has the most to do with this project is hardly given any attention at all. It makes me nervous yet gives me hope in this project all together! Do I wish there were other names attached to this project that are more passionate about the source material? Or Christianity as a whole? Yes. But so far they have been preoccupied with making end times films and cheesy sudden conversion films to make a film like this. I wait in anticipation to hear more about this project!