Well folks, I really don't know what to say about this news except: Cue the theme from Jaws. Let's go straight to the Hollywood Reporter story by Paul Bond, which I am amazed has not inspired more coverage. Where is Frank Rich? The bottom line -- literally -- is that Sony Pictures is attempting to appeal to the evangelical slice of the mainstream audience that flocked to The Passion of the Christ by making a sequel about the events after the resurrection.
Who are the key players? Wait for it:
Using the Bible for its source material, "Resurrection" will tell the story of Jesus Christ beginning the day he died on the cross and ending about 40 days later with his ascension into heaven. According to insiders, Sony's mid-budget Screen Gems division commissioned a script several months ago from Lionel Chetwynd, the veteran screenwriter, producer and director whose credits include the feature "The Hanoi Hilton" and the Emmy-nominated TV movie "Ike: Countdown to D-Day."
Set to produce is Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling "Left Behind" series of books. A popular minister and frequent TV news pundit, "Resurrection" will mark LaHaye's first foray into mainstream filmmaking.
Now, we know that the words "Mel Gibson" freaked out a lot of folks on the left coast. However, his name also thrilled a lot of people who were excited that a heavyweight, A-list talent was going to make a serious film about Holy Week. Gibson is a love-him or hate-him kind of man, but no one doubted his talent and his commitment to quality. He had that Braveheart thing going for him, after all.
But Tim "Left Behind" LaHaye? His involvement will excite many on the Christian right, but it will also -- needless to say -- raise questions about artistic merits of the project. I mean, is this a direct-to-video project?
It is possible that this movie will not cause controversy. It is also possible that it will. Bond's short report noted:
The film will focus on these dramatic encounters and their implications for the Roman garrison in Judea and the broader Roman Empire, insiders said.
"This is not a fanciful rendering. It's a serious attempt to understand the Roman world in which Christ moved and the Christian era was born," a person familiar with the project said.
Does "the broader Roman Empire" include the complex and divided world of the Jewish authorities of that day? It goes without saying that LaHaye's beliefs may also raise concerns among Jewish groups, especially on the cultural left.
Meanwhile, it is clear that The Passion raised issues in Hollywood that are not going away anytime soon.
After all, the crew at Entertainment Weekly -- which is known (cough, cough) for its mainstream views on religion -- has just named Gibson's bloody epic as the single most controversial film of all time.
That's right, hotter than The Message by Moustapha Akkad, which offered a take on the origins of Islam that lead to riots and terrorism. Hotter than the epic racism of The Birth of a Nation. Hotter than JFK, Deep Throat, Fahrenheit 9/11, A Clockwork Orange and, of course, The Last Temptation of Christ by Martin Scorsese. And EW thought that Gibson's film was way, way more controversial than that historic film Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl that helped build the legend of a secular messianic figure of some importance -- Adolf Hitler.
It's safe to say that anything hailed as Passion 2 will cause a bit of heat among the powers that be in the world of entertainment.