〉 The Biblical epic has officially moved to Studio 8, with producers hoping to land a new A-lister in the lead role
After months of speculation, the long-gestating religious epic PONTIUS PILATE has officially moved out of Warner Bros. and into Studio 8, sources confirmed to The Tracking Board today. Jeff Rabinov is producing for Studio 8, joining Mark Johnson and his Gran Via Productions. Chris Goldberg and John Silk will now oversee for Studio 8.
The screenplay, written by Vera Blasi, follows the evolution of Lucius Pontius Pilate from the sensitive son of a Roman Knight into a ferocious soldier whose warrior exploits make him a general and puts him on a political track under the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Promised a military governorship in Egypt, Pilate’s instead assigned by Tiberius to become the ‘prefect’ of Judea, at a time when Jerusalem was a cauldron of religious tensions between various factions of the Jewish faith.
The script depicts Pilate a man who gets in over his head when he’s put in the position of presenting two men to an angry mob–Jesus of Nazareth and Barabbas–letting them choose whose life is to be spared. When the crowd chooses to spare Barabbas instead of Jesus, Pilate washes his hands of responsibility and reluctantly sends Jesus to his death.
Despite Brad Pitt moving away from the project last year, the producers at Studio 8 are still interested in seeing A-list talent join the feature as a way of anchoring what could potentially be a challenging sell to a skeptical audience. Pontius Pilate, after all, is one of the most vilified figures in history, and depicting him as a sympathetic character will require a strong screen presence to whom an audience can easily connect.
The movement on the Pontius Pilate period drama comes just weeks after we exclusively reported that Paramount and Disruption are in development with a remake of The Ten Commandments. Biblical epics like Exodus: Gods and Kings, Noah, and The Passion of The Christ have proven to be huge box office draws internationally, and that seems to have spurned Hollywood to continue the development of their religious properties in a climate where the global box office draw matters now more than ever.
That, of course, doesn’t necessarily include what is arguably the most important international market, China, whose censors rarely allow for the distribution of Biblically themed films screen in the country (Paramount’s Noah was rejected by the Chinese cinematic censors in 2014 despite an anticipated release there).
Studio 8 seems convinced that the popularity in other markets is enough to justify moving forward with Pontius Pilate’s development, but that’s contingent on landing another A-lister to replace Pitt. As such, casting the lead has become the producers’ priority before the hunt for the right director gets underway.
Josh Lyons | Staff Writer