Paul Verhoeven in the Wall Street Journal’s “Speakeasy”

Paul Verhoeven in the Wall Street Journal’s “Speakeasy”

April 14, 2010

From the Wall Street Journal’s blog “Speakeasy”:

Although he describes himself in Jesus of Nazareth as a “non-theologian, non-believer and a movie director to boot,” Verhoeven seemed less interested in dispelling the mythology of Jesus (whom he believes to have existed) than in fleshing out the darker details of the alleged messiah’s life. He compared biblical descriptions of Jesus performing exorcisms to The Exorcist, saying, “This was not a light touch. It was much more violent.”

Although Verhoeven did once attempt to make a movie about the Crusades with Arnold Schwarzenegger, he expressed doubt that his book — which does contain cinematic descriptions of Jesus’s life — would make it to Hollywood. “I don’t know if the studios are jumping up and down for this,” he joked. Nevertheless, he didn’t hesitate to describe what sort of direction his version would take. “I believe Jesus, from the beginning of his career, was seen as a threat. He would be fleeing more than normal in this movie.”

As a member of the Jesus Seminar, Verhoeven attended regular discussions and contributed papers about his subject’s influential teachings. “The most important thing for me is the ethics of Jesus in his parables,” Verhoeven said. “They show a certain type of behavior that should be regular on Earth. After 2,000 years, we’re still not close to it.”

That final indictment may explain the constant pessimism in Verhoeven’s work. The moderator of the discussion, Slate contributor Eric Hynes, noted that the filmmaker’s dour explanation of Jesus’s world “sounds just like a Paul Verhoeven movie.”

The response was immediate. “Yeah,” Verhoeven said, “but I didn’t invent it this time.”

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