Paul Verhoven, the dual-sided filmmaker whose Hollywood career is broadly split between  highly aware genre fare (RoboCop, Starship Troopers, Black Book) and gleeful, exploitative silliness (Showgirls, Basic Instinct, Total Recall), has long wanted to make a film about Jesus. Yes, that Jesus, the carpenter. He co-wrote a book on the subject, Jesus of Nazareth, and has tried for some time to raise money to do a film version.

Now he’s a couple steps closer, perhaps thanks to a climate that is more favorable than usual towards big films with religious origins. (Think Aronofsky’s Noah and Spielberg’s Gods and Kings.) Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction, Beowulf) has been hired to script, and Muse Productions is ready to finance the picture.

Deadline says Verhoeven will direct the film based on Avary’s script, and that his view of the subject “discounts all of the miracles that inform the New Testament. That includes the immaculate conception, and the resurrection. Verhoeven doesn’t believe any of them happened.”

Or, you can read this description of Verhoeven’s book:

…filmmaker Paul Verhoeven disrobes the mythical Jesus to reveal a man who has much in common with other great political leaders throughout history—human beings who believed that change was coming in their lifetimes. Gone is the Jesus of the miracles, gone the son of God, gone the weaver of arcane parables whose meanings are obscure. In their place Verhoeven gives us his vision of Jesus as a complete man, someone who was changed by events, the leader of a political movement, and, perhaps most importantly, someone who, in his speeches and sayings, introduced a new ethic in which the embrace of human contradictions transcends the mechanics of value and worth that had defined the material world before Jesus.

In other words, Verhoven focuses on Jesus as a man and a political figure, rather than as a messiah or Son of God. Hardly a new angle, but he does attempt to construct a specific portrait of the man through the Gospels and other texts.

And this isn’t the exploitative, button-pushing version of Verhoeven. He has long been interested in Jesus as a historical figure, and is one of the few non-theologians (perhaps still the only one) who is part of the scholarly Jesus Seminar, which attempts to draw an accurate picture of Jesus as a man and establish the reliability of the various Gospels.

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