This has to be the laugh-out-loud little story of the greater Easter season. Newsweek has a short little article by reporter Elise Soukup that starts like this:
It's hard to find God in Hollywood. Just ask Robi Reed, who's casting "The Bible Experience," a 70-hour audio recording of the Old and New Testaments performed by black actors. These are no D-listers, either. Some of the 150 artists who signed on include Blair Underwood as Jesus, Angela Bassett as Esther, Cuba Gooding Jr. as Judas, and Denzel Washington, who's reading the Songs of Solomon with his wife, Pauletta. But, says Reed, "we're still looking for God."
There's no shortage of stars lining up. Though all participants are paid only the minimum required by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Reed says 98 out of 100 artists she approached signed on. ... "This isn't just a project," says Louis (Buster) Brown, who's overseeing music. "This has taken on all the characteristics of a movement." Even if it is currently a Godless one.
Ah, come on! Let's see, we need a really majestic, bold, yet mysterious voice that sounds like, well, the Lord Almighty. He's played the role before, in fact, and we're not talking about that Lord of the Sith thing.
Now who would that be? Oh, wait, and he's one of the world's best-known African American actors and voiceover talents. Let's see. What's his name again?
Over at USA Today, Cathy Lynn Grossman has all kinds of fun angles on this little story. However, the God issue is still there in all its glory. Maybe it's just me, but it looks like the producers of this project are talking to him but can't talk about the negotiations. That's my reading of this:
God? Still not cast.
There's an offer out, but "God requires a lot of recording time in hours. He had a lot to say," says casting director and co-producer Robi Reed.
It's nice that Denzel Washington and his wife, Pauletta, are going to read the Song of Solomon to each other. I am also sure, as Grossman notes, that the PR department for the project will have fun with Gooding as Judas, with that whole "Show me the money" thing going on between the lines.
But there might be another story hiding in between the lines here, a story about the role of religious faith in modern Hollywood. Here's the dangerous question:
Another casting question: Should only faithful Christians get roles?
Reed says the producers agreed that the Bible -- populated with many unbelievers -- would be their guide. "The Bible itself is God's word. Who are we to judge God's word? It's his project, his will and his purpose. If we bring in someone who doesn't believe or whose faith is not as strong as ours, God's plan might be that this is a way to bring them into belief."
Whoa. That was a close one.
For a minute there, I thought the cast list for this project was going to be the official "outing" document for African American Christians in Hollywood. That would be a very controversial piece of paper in the Passion of the Chronicles of Brokeback Mountain era of the cinema wars.