The writer and director of “Paul, Apostle of Christ” is adamant that he doesn’t like Christian or biblical movies — at least the ones where everything is “tied up in a big red bow” as soon as the movie’s characters agree to believe in Jesus Christ.
“When you do have an encounter with Christ, that doesn’t mean that your life is perfect and suddenly everything is going to work out,” said Andrew Hyatt (“Full of Grace”) at a recent Hollywood pre-screening of his film based on the life of one of the most influential apostles of Christ.
Hyatt wanted to create a movie that would show the humanity and strong personal relationships of the early Christian martyrs. “We forget that these were real people that lived and breathed. And so it was very important for us to find the humanity.”
Jim Caviezel (“Passion of the Christ”) reprises a biblical role in the new film, but this time as St. Luke, the physician and close friend of St. Paul, played by James Faulkner (“Game of Thrones”). Sony Pictures is producing the movie through its faith-based Affirm Films label.
The story follows the final days of St. Paul as he awaits execution in Emperor Nero’s bleakest prison cell. St. Luke risks his life to visit his friend, who is suffering an internal battle.
After suffering floggings, a shipwreck, starvation and stoning for the sake of the gospel, St. Paul is still haunted by his past misdeeds before his conversion. St. Luke brings comfort while encouraging St. Paul to write his final work in order to strengthen the persecuted Christians of Rome.
The screenplay draws heavily from Scripture. Hyatt said he began with about 10,000 sticky notes arranged on a wall, each one referencing a moment in St. Paul’s life as described in the New Testament.
The challenge was to create a two-hour movie with these notes, while filling in the gaps with authentic human moments.
Caviezel was eager to improvise humor into the film, Hyatt said. The humorous element came naturally when they realized how much time St. Luke and St. Paul spent together in their quest to evangelize the Gentiles.
“These guys were on the road together for 15 to 20 years, they’d been through everything. And it worked,” Hyatt said of the humor. “It brings humanity.”
Producer T. J. Berden (“Full of Grace”) said St. Paul’s remarkable story speaks to all people. “Whether you believe in what Paul and Luke are saying or not, I think it’s hard not to have a human response.”
He stressed that the movie has an ecumenical tone. The film involves the recitation of the Our Father, a prayer that links all Christian denominations.
“This movie is Christian,” said Berden. “It’s not Catholic. It’s not Protestant. It’s Christian and it’s ecumenical, and that’s really important to us.”
The producers at Sony believe in the content of the film, Berden added. The small-budget movie will be one of Sony’s biggest releases this year, showing on 2,000 screens across the U.S.
The movie is dedicated to all those who have suffered persecution because of their faith. It hits theaters March 28, during Holy Week.
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