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Hollywood powerbrokers bring Bible to life in new TV miniseries

Published: Friday, March 1 2013 10:45 a.m. MST

“The biggest obstacles (to Bible adaptations) were ones that DeMille freely admitted when he was making his ‘Ten Commandments,’ both the first version in 1923 and the second version released in 1956,” said James D’Arc, the author and film historian who curates the Cecil B. DeMille Archive for Brigham Young University. “And that is (insufficient) details of a story to make a seamless motion picture. He admitted that the early life of Moses in Egypt was one that presented some very perplexing problems: What was it like growing up? And why exactly was he banished?”

Whereas the 1956 movie “The Ten Commandments” had to account for a lot of unknown details in order to stretch the dramatization of a single life across 220 minutes, “The Bible” miniseries runs the gauntlet from Genesis to Revelations in 10 hours. Thus, Downey and Burnett were more burdened with selecting which stories to include in their work than figuring out how to account for circumstances and situations unrecorded in scripture. Yet in order to ensure historical accuracy, “The Bible” consulted a team of 40 religious scholars and theologians on an ongoing basis — a strategy less concerned with maximizing dramatic effect than DeMille’s modus operandi for “filling in the blanks” in Moses’ life.

“In those areas,” D’Arc explained, “DeMille had to go to research, fiction and to credible suppositions by screenwriters to fill in those years that are sparsely documented.”

'This is not cheesy'

Compared to the biblical film adaptations of yesteryear, “The Bible” miniseries distinguishes itself with cutting-edge chops. The England-based Lola studio — purveyor of special effects for visually stunning films like “Gladiator” and “Troy” — rendered the CGI animation for “The Bible” that brings stories like Noah’s Ark to life like never before. Additionally, Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer scored the new miniseries.

“This looks like it’s a $100-million movie,” Downey said.

By virtue of the fact of the fact Glenn Beck owns a values-based media empire that includes cable television station TheBlaze TV, he is frequently approached with Bible-themed projects seeking either his endorsement or financial backing. In that context, Beck is emphatic in asserting there’s nothing normal about “The Bible” miniseries.

“This is not cheesy,” Beck said. “I see a lot of cheesy Bible stuff; this is not one of those things. This is (for people) who believe in the Bible and want to see really good, quality stories that reflect who we are.”

“The Bible” continues playing every Sunday throughout March on the History Channel. The broadcast schedule is available on the History Channel website.

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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