Seven years after winning two Oscars for his epic battle movie Braveheart, Hollywood superstar Mel Gibson is going behind the camera for a highly ambitious picture about the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus Christ.
After cartwheeling into a press conference at Rome's Cinecitta Studios with Neapolitan dwarf actor Davide Marotta, Gibson said Passion, the new movie he is also producing, will be shot entirely in Latin and Aramaic - without any subtitles.
"I will shoot the film in two dead languages. For me that's more real, and I'll hopefully be able to transcend language barriers through filmic storytelling," he said. "You will understand the film. That's my job. And if I fail, I'll put subtitles on it. But I don't want to have to do that."
While Marotta continued to play a running gag with Gibson throughout the surreal press conference, the Hollywood star said he would aim to show the humanity of Christ "and make it a very personal experience for all the protagonists. That's what has been missing from previous versions about the life of Christ." Gibson insisted that he would not play an on-screen role.
Co-scripted by Gibson and Ben Fitzgerald, Passion is freely inspired from the Gospels of St. Luke, John, Mark and Matthew as well as the diaries of Anne Catherine Emmerich collected in the book The Dolorous Passion Of Our Lord Jesus Christ." The English-language screenplay was translated into Latin and Aramaic by Bill Fulco, a Los Angeles professor.
The role of Christ will be played by Jim Caviezel while Italian actress Rosalinda Celentano will play Satan. Gibson said he is currently also in talks with Italian actress-of-the-moment Monica Bellucci as well as fellow Italian actor-director Sergio Rubini. Rome-based veteran Shaila Rubin is handling casting.
Entirely funded by Gibson's own production company, Icon Entertainment International, Passion starts shooting at Cinecitta and in the southern Italian region of Basilicata on November 4 for 10 weeks. Co-producers are Bruce Davey and Steve McEveety. Italy's Enzo Sisti is line producing.
The film, whose running time will be between 85 and 90 mns, will be shot by The Patriot cinematographer Caleb Deschane and will feature sets designed by Francesco Frigeri and as costumes made by award-winning designer Maurizio Millenotti.
Gibson - who will take a producer's credit for the fifth time in his career and a director's credit for the third time - refused to reveal any details about the budget of the film.
"The idea for this movie started rambling around in my empty head around 10 years ago - I've got a lot of air in my head. Then it began to slowly take shape," Gibson said.
Passion does not currently have a US studio or distributor attached.