With a full slate of big screen projects and prime-time series in the works, Hollywood is betting big on the box office success of biblical epics in 2014.
So why is Hollywood suddenly so eager to start bringing Scripture to mainstream audiences? It could have something to do with the fact that The Bible miniseries, History Channel’s 10-hour epic from husband and wife producing team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, broke cable ratings records when in debuted in 2013.
“So many people said to us—who aren’t people of faith—‘You guys are crazy. Who’s going to watch this on prime-time TV?’” Burnett says. “And Roma would always say, ‘You’re going to be surprised.’” Their faithfulness paid off. Not only did the success lead to a new miniseries (A.D.: Beyond the Bible, which will air on NBC) and a feature film (Son of God), it also helped spark a Bible-inspired revolution across Hollywood.
Along with Son of God and Noah, the deluge of Bible-themed movies heading to theaters includes two films about the life of Moses (Exodus, starring Christian Bale, and Gods and Kings, which Ang Lee is reportedly in talks to direct), a Cain and Able film starring Will Smith, and a Pontius Pilate biopic featuring Brad Pitt—all in various stages of development. TV is also getting in on the Bible action. WGN America is working with 10 notable directors for a series based on the Ten Commandments. And Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Mamet is working on a show about the seven deadly sins that will air on Fox.
For Downey, the success of their series—and the Bible’s Hollywood takeover—isn’t just about viewers’ interest in scripture; it’s about their desire for faith. “I think what it speaks to is the hunger that people have for God, the hunger they have for hope,” she says.
Due out in December, Exodus tells the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. It’s directed by Ridley Scott and stars Christian Bale as Moses and Aaron Paul as Joshua.
Cable network WGN America is teaming with 10 notable directors (including Lee Daniels and, yes, Michael Cera) for the 10-part series.
The cast for Mary Mother of Christ, a prequel to 2004‘s The Passion of The Christ, includes Sir Ben Kingsley and Julia Ormond.