Martin Scorsese says new Jesus film aims to ‘take away the negatives’ of organised religion | Movies

Martin Scorsese says new Jesus film aims to ‘take away the negatives’ of organised religion | Movies

Martin Scorsese is to follow up his triumphant true-crime epic Killers of the Flower Moon with an 80-minute film about Jesus designed to “take away the negative[s] … associated with organised religion”.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Scorsese explained the thinking behind the project, an adaptation of A Life of Jesus by writer Shūsaku Endō (a Japanese Catholic whose 1966 novel Silence was previously adapted by Scorsese). Scorsese said he and his writing collaborator Kent Jones had finished the screenplay and were “swimming in inspiration” for a film reportedly set largely in the present day that “focus[es] on Jesus’s core teachings in a way that explores the principles but doesn’t proselytise”.

Scorsese said: “I’m trying to find a new way to make it more accessible and take away the negative onus of what has been associated with organised religion.”

The director, 81, added: “Right now, ‘religion’, you say that word and everyone is up in arms because it’s failed in so many ways. But that doesn’t mean necessarily that the initial impulse was wrong. Let’s get back. Let’s just think about it. You may reject it. But it might make a difference in how you live your life – even in rejecting it. Don’t dismiss it offhand. That’s all I’m talking about.”

Scorsese said he was preparing to shoot the film in 2024, having been inspired to begin work on it after meeting Pope Francis in 2023 and participating in a conference title The Global Aesthetics of the Catholic Imagination, organised by Jesuit publication La Civiltà Cattolica. At the time Scorsese told the press: “I have responded to the pope’s appeal to artists in the only way I know how: by imagining and writing a screenplay for a film about Jesus.”

Scorsese has a significant track record with films with overt religious themes. His 1988 adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ triggered worldwide controversy and protests for its depiction of an alternative timeline for Jesus’s life, while Silence, released in 2016, portrayed the struggles of Jesuit priests persecuted for their religion in 17th-century Japan. In 1997 Scorsese also released Kundun, a biographical film about the Dalai Lama.

Production of the Life of Jesus adaptation appears to have pushed back another recently announced Scorsese project: an adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon author David Grann’s 2023 non-fiction book The Wager, about the so-called Wager Mutiny of 1741. Scorsese suggested in a recent interview with Indiewire that the pressures of Killers’ awards-season campaign meant he needed a break, and that a seaborne shoot might mean he would co-direct it.

On Sunday Killers of the Flower Moon won a Golden Globe for best female actor for its lead Lily Gladstone, and looks set to pick up multiple nominations for major awards in the coming weeks.

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