"It's been just such a privilege to be able to bring a story to the screen, knowing that in some way the film will impact the lives of millions of people that they too will get to know His story and have an opportunity to fall in love with Him."
- Roma Downey
The Bible in Theaters
Roma Downey and Diogo Morgado on Faith and Filming Son of God
By Hannah Goodwyn
- Jesus returns to the big screen this weekend with the release of Son of God. It's been 10 years since The Passion of the Christ shocked and awed Hollywood, showing these decision makers a big audience hungry for Bible-based films.
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, executive producers of The Bible, the hugely popular miniseries that smashed cable records last spring, are proud to present the full story of Christ's life, death and resurrection in movie theaters nationwide beginning this Friday, February 28th. With the hope of reaching across language barriers, Son of God will also be shown in Spanish and Korean. Plans to make versions with more languages are in the works.
On a recent phone call, Downey (who also plays Mary, the Mother of Jesus) and Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado (who continues his role as Jesus) shared about their personal faith, their experiences in bringing Christ's story to life and their hopes for how the movie will impact the Church and reach outside its walls. Here are excerpts from that conversation…
Jesus is a lot of things to a lot of people. Who is He to you?
Diogo Morgado: To me, He is love, He's a pure love. I think the more you describe it, the more you get confused by it. I think a lot of misinterpretations of Jesus were because of that. Ultimately, He is the purest form of love, for me.
Roma Downey: I have loved Jesus my whole life. I was so grateful when I was a little girl for my faith because my mother died when I was just 10. I keep close to me that old Footprints prayer. I had it in my pocket always when we were filming in Morocco as a reminder of those moments of struggle or those moments when challenge comes and you fear perhaps you're walking alone. It's a reminder that especially at those times that He's carrying you. He's carried me through a lot, and I'm indebted to Him for the transformation that He brought into my life. And it's been just such a privilege to be able to bring a story to the screen, knowing that in some way the film will impact the lives of millions of people that they too will get to know His story and have an opportunity to fall in love with Him.
What misconception about what Jesus did or who He is frustrates you most?
Morgado: I think a lot of the time that is spent on arguing about the exact words and what happened exactly, and the interpretation of the different Gospels would be better spent in understanding the wider message. That's the only thing that I really, I'm debating with, which is that… the ultimate message of Jesus was to love each other as we love ourselves, and love God. We tend to misunderstand that simple message sometimes.
Downey: I think that's true, Diogo. I think sometimes as Christians, we become known as people to speak out against things. And while there's a time and a place for that, I think that I feel encouraged as this movie is gaining momentum that we are a people here who are speaking out for things, and what we are for is Jesus.
Diogo, while filming the crucifixion, you've said that you felt lonely. Can you describe that moment?
Morgado: It was a moment that I had that I saw my whole life flashing in front of my eyes and I had a lonely emotion of being at the right place at the right time and doing what is right, and that obviously was something that I experienced, just me. So, it was a lonely moment for me, but not in a bad way, just in a way that nobody could be in my shoes in that moment. It was a truly overwhelming moment for me that I will keep with me forever. Basically, that was the moment which everything is about, the ultimate sacrifice of God's son and His love for us being so big that He could sacrifice, in that way, His only son. That had to be something—it had to be, like I said before, the purest form of love.
So, for me, being in that place, portraying, even for a slight second, even if it's just graphical, it represented to me a blessing. I felt so, so grateful to be the one, the lucky one and the honored one to be in that moment. That was a lonely feeling because I was just there on my own and with my faith and my hoping that I would be portraying what would be done and what should be done.
Is there a moment in Son of God that we didn't see in the miniseries that's a favorite of yours?
Morgado: The whole footage was re-edited and re-cut in a way to build the emotional apical, cinematic experience on the big screen. When I saw the movie, I saw it on the big screen. But I was alone when I saw the movie, so I didn't have the experience of sharing it with an audience, but I have to say that I was truly emotional when I finished the movie because it was almost like I was seeing a completely different project. I was not expecting that at all because this time, Son of God, it's building up a love story. It's a closer look at the life of Jesus and at the love of Jesus. We have time to build up that relationship between the viewer and Jesus. So, by the time we get to the cross, we've already invested a lot, and we almost feel that we, for the non-believers, we can almost feel that we know Him by the time we get to the cross, and we will be crushed by seeing someone that we cherish, and we love being brutally murdered like that. For the ones who do believe and for the believers, for persons of faith, it's just another way of expressing and seeing on the big screen the Jesus that they love.
The plight of persecuted Christians has recently made headlines with American pastor Saeed Abedini still in prison in Iran and Australian missionary John Short being detained in North Korea. Actor Eduardo Verástegui (who voices Jesus in the Spanish version of Son of God) just published a piece for Fox News about this issue. Any thoughts on this modern-day reality as you've gone through the journey of retelling the son of God's story?
Downey: I have spent a little bit of time last year in the Middle East at the invitation of King Abdullah of Jordan. I spoke at a peace conference in Amman, and it was around the time where we were very concerned about what might happen in Syria if there had been those air strikes. Thank God that was diverted because I had an opportunity while I was over there to speak with many of the Christian people from the region, and the very real fear and threat that they live under.
We open [Son of God] on the Island of Patmos through the experience of John, who is the only surviving disciple, because the others, of course, most of them had been murdered and persecuted for their faith in Jesus. That was present for us as we brought the story to the screen, that millions have died for our faith and billions live for our faith. We hope in some small way that our film will contribute to a greater understanding of Christian people, and a greater acceptance of Christians in the world.
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Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Entertainment and Family producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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