National Edition

'Son of God' co-producer Roma Downey hopes movie inspires new interest — and faith — in Jesus

Published: Friday, Feb. 28 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

This image released by 20th Century Fox shows Roma Downey as Mary in a scene from "Son of God."

Casey Crafford, Associated Press

After this weekend, Roma Downey hopes people will be talking about Jesus, thanks to a new movie she's co-produced and appears in: "Son of God," which opens on 3,100 screens nationally on Friday.

The film, which tells the story of Jesus in key elements of his life, comes on the heels of "The Bible," a wildly popular 2013 cable TV miniseries. Mark Burnett, Downey's husband, is co-producing both projects, in which Downey portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus.

"After the success of 'The Bible' series, one of the comments that we heard most repeatedly was that it allowed an opportunity, around the water cooler, or around the kitchen table, for a larger conversation to occur," she said. "And it's our hope that when 'Son of God' opens, that the same thing will be true. That families and people in the workplace will be talking about faith, will be talking about God, (and) will be talking about Jesus."

In a telephone interview, Downey discussed the film and its prospects.

Deseret News: This film is creating quite a bit of buzz, quite a bit of discussion. Did you imagine that it would be this big?

Roma Downey: I don't know that we could have dared to dream this big. We knew that when we were filming "The Bible" series, we knew as we started to see the Jesus narrative unfold and ... when we saw Diogo Morgado's performance and we saw how epic it looked, I said to Mark (Burnett), "I wish we had been making a film, this is spectacular." And he said, "Well, why don't we? Let's shoot additional footage while we're here; let's have an editor start working on it." So, this became a notion back before the series launched, but we didn't know if we would get distribution. We didn't know, you know, what life the film would have.

We sent it out to a few folks to look at, and we had a most encouraging call from 20th Century Fox, and they said they'd seen the film, they loved it, and they wanted to distribute it. … It's been very encouraging as we've gone out around the country with pre-screenings and with church groups and across denominations, to feel a love and support for the film, as evidenced by these amazing theater takeovers that are occurring. Many, many churches are buying out entire megaplexes and giving the tickets to their communities and their youth groups, and it's really been an amazing few months for us.

DN: It's been quite some time, has it not, since a movie covering the full arc of Jesus' life made it to a commercial theater.

RD: Yes, it's been almost a decade, exactly to the weekend, since "The Passion of the Christ" came to the big screen, and it's been almost 50 years since the entire life of Jesus was told in a cinematic presentation, and that was "The Greatest Story Ever Told." So we knew that there's a whole new generation that hadn't seen the story of Jesus presented in this way. I think that the movie is a movie for the ages. It's presenting His story, updated in a way that a contemporary audience expects. It's gritty. It's realistic. It has amazing special effects, a beautiful international cast, (and) an extraordinary score by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe.

To have Hans put the score together and to hear it in surround sound, in community — I think that's one of the extraordinary things about this … it's not so much that you see it, but you feel it, it's an experience to feel the movie.

DN: Part of this involves getting communities in, and you had mentioned bringing large numbers of people in because churches are buying out theaters. … What was the origin of that?

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