passion of the christ sequel

In 2004, Mel Gibson‘s The Passion of the Christ defied all odds and became the third highest grossing film of its year, edged out only by the likes of Shrek and Spider-Man. An independently produced, ultra-violent, R-rated depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus filmed using dead languages and subtitles had managed to tap into an evangelical audience that often found itself neglected at the local multiplex. It remains one of the strangest and most telling moments in recent movie history.

A lot has changed in the past twelve years. Faith-based movies have emerged as a new genre. Mel Gibson went from being one of the world’s most beloved movie stars and an Oscar-winning director to a seemingly racist crackpot more than willing to fight Sylvester Stallone in an Expendables sequel. The Passion of the Christ might feels like it was made a lifetime ago. And maybe that’s why Gibson is now working on a sequel.

Although rumors of a follow-up to The Passion of the Christ have popped up every so often over the years, The Hollywood Reporter received semi-official confirmation of the project’s existence from Braveheart writer Randall Wallace, who says that he is currently working on the screenplay for Gibson. He also confirmed when everyone suspected – the sequel would focus on the resurrection of Jesus three days after being entombed.

Wallace has a history with Gibson that goes beyond their collaboration on the Oscar-sweeping Braveheart. He wrote the screenplay for We Were Soldiers, which starred Gibson as a military commander stuck in a hellish battle during the early days of the Vietnam War, as well as the upcoming Hacksaw Ridge, a World War II drama starring Andrew Garfield that sees Gibson returning to the director’s chair. Wallace has also dabbled in faith-based filmmaking himself, writing and directing 2014’s (fairly revolting) Heaven is For Real.

While I am firmly of the secular persuasion (and yes, I am probably going to hell, thanks for letting me know), it’s hard to ignore The Passion of the Christ, which remains a challenging, strange, and truly bizarre movie. Unlike most movies made directly for evangelical audiences, which literally preach to the choir and offer bland platitudes at the expenses of storytelling, Gibson’s film is fascinating because it’s such a personal depiction of his not-quite-average beliefs. His version of Jesus’ suffering differs from most Biblical texts in key ways and directly reflects his views as an artist, Christian and human being. Much of that reflection is ugly (there is anti-semitism to be mined from his work), but it’s so much more interesting than anything that has come in its wake. Christian audiences made The Passion of the Christ a hit, but Gibson himself delivered something deeply uncomfortable and personal and worthy of discussion.

Wallace tells THR that the project is still in a fragile state and that nothing has been locked down quite yet… although he does suggest that people with money are starting to line up. If Gibson wants to make this movie, it will surely get made. That’s what a worldwide gross of $611 million worldwide earns you.

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