There’s a secret brewing in Hollywood: Steven Spielberg sleeps with one eye open, Harvey Weinstein ventilates with a paper bag and Creative Artists Agency has a waiting list for its in-house confessional booth.
This is all because of a misconception that’s about to bust wide open. Forget Comcast – God runs the most powerful studio in town.
Ask Mel Gibson, man of the moment, who reckoned with the deity recently to produce the most controversial film of the year (possibly in years), The Passion of The Christ.
Hailed as both a spiritual masterpiece and one-dimensional bloodfest by critics worldwide, Passion has sparked dialogue for months now as a somber Gibson popped up everywhere from Christian Cable networks to Primetime with Diane Sawyer.
The movie, actor Jim Caviezel filling the intimidating sandals of Jesus Christ, tracks the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life before crucifixion.
Starting with a serene Last Supper in the Garden of Olives (no word on how many salad and garlic bread refills), the flick proceeds to Jesus’ trial and beatings, his cross-bearing trek and eventual mounting, all of the latter agreed universally to be some of the most violent interpretations of the event.
Yet in the vein of such violent artistic expression, concern for a message of Anti-Semitism has been growing since the film was in preproduction.
“At every single opportunity, Gibson’s film reinforces the notion that the Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob are the ones ultimately responsible for the Crucifixion,” said Anti-Defamation league interfaith counselor Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor in a statement.
Gibson has said repeatedly that the film in now way endorses hate; in fact many speculate that the film is a vehicle for Gibson, a devout Catholic, to attempt atonement for his sins.
Regardless of Gibson’s passion for Passion, there’s a bottom line. A green one. The movie grossed more than $120 million dollars in its first five days of release.
The consequences of such moneymaking are many and new questions are being asked. Obviously the attack of media attention has helped propel the film center stage, but repeat business, mass group sales and a line of jewelry inspired by Passion?
Stranger than fiction, International Movie Database reported the shipping of 75,000 pewter nails fastened in leather straps (to represent the nails of the cross) to retail locations. Jewel company Bob Siemon Designs, tapped by Passion producers, linked the trinkets to the film.
Gibson fronted the $25 million to make Passion and, along with distributor Newmarket, is looking at an inspirational payday but was more at work to make the film a success than divine providence?
Tapping into socially sensitive topics and sparking up an age-old debate like “Who killed Jesus?” as if it were murder mystery dinner theater could be the most simple, unbelievable marketing strategy to date.
The money, along with every country that hasn’t banished Gibson’s brainchild, talks and fervor for Passion will continue.
Icon Productions, Gibson’s company, would be served best with a tough skin and lots o’ patience in the coming months.
Say your prayers, Gibson, one wrong move and next thing you know…Lethal Weapon 7.
Matt Donnelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org