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The movie 13 Hours opens this weekend, prompting this comment on Wednesday’s The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Rush: There’s another one coming in March by my friend Cyrus Nowrasteh who did The Path to 9/11. This movie is going to open in 3,000 theaters I think March the 11th … it’s about Jesus Christ at age seven as He has learning what and who He is and what He is to become … It’s a fascinating premise. Cyrus and his wife wrote it. He directed it. He’d been working on it for two years …The Young Messiah.
So The Young Messiah had a release date! Writer-director Cyrus Nowrasteh and his wife and creative partner Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh make films of serious import based on noteworthy literary properties. They do extensive research, and take bold creative risks. The Path to 9/11 was a highly rated (but — controversially — only once seen) docudrama miniseries about the prelude to the terrorist attack. The Stoning of Soraya M., a powerful independent feature, was based on Freidoune Sahebjam’s non-fiction book about a monstrous incident which took place under the Iranian theocracy.
The Nowrastehs have a diverse development slate and it sounds like this time they’re taking us to a more uplifting place. The Young Messiah is based on Anne Rice’s bestseller Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. Talk about an origin story!
I interviewed Cyrus Nowrasteh about the The Young Messiah, exclusively for Ricochet.
JK: Cyrus, the early years of Jesus are poorly documented. There’s Luke 2:41-52 in the temple, but not much else I recall. What steps exactly did you and Betsy take to ensure as much authenticity as possible?
Cyrus Nowrasteh: We wanted to remain faithful to the Bible and remain true to the character of Jesus revealed in the Bible. So as we considered how to portray Jesus as a child we looked at what the Bible tells us about how He reacted to similar situations as an adult. The Young Messiah shows a young Jesus behaving the same as the adult Jesus did. This portion of Jesus’ life has never been focused on in film before, it’s a huge responsibility and we took it very seriously. I think the film will inspire conversation, every Christian wonders and wants to know more about Jesus, motivated by their love for Him. And as for children, whom many pastors and religious influencers are trying to turn to God, what better way to stir their interest?
JK: How would you pitch The Young Messiah in two or three sentences to the target audience, which I suppose includes all of Christendom?
Cyrus Nowrasteh: In the rich history of Jesus movies we’ve seen dramatized the story of His final days and eventual crucifixion — but we’ve never had a glimpse into Jesus’ life as a boy. What kind of child was He? What could His family life have been like? What kind of parents were Joseph and Mary? Who was the boy who was Father to the Man? The Young Messiah tries to address these questions.
JK: Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a key figure in 20th century Catholic veneration. What’s central to your understanding of the Mary we’ll see in the film?
Cyrus Nowrasteh: Our film marketer, Paul Lauer, who repped Jesus films like Son of God, The Nativity, The Bible, and The Passion of the Christ, says that he’s never seen more cross-denominational positive responses to our portrayal of Mary. Why? Because in The Young Messiah she’s portrayed as a dear and loving and very human Mother to her very special child … your readers have to see the movie to really see what I’m talking about. Everyone’s skeptical until they see it.
JK: What about the characters and story in The Young Messiah could also appeal to the secular viewer? Is it necessary to accept supernatural elements to enjoy the picture?
Cyrus Nowrasteh: Many, many secular folks have responded enthusiastically to The Young Messiah because at its core it is a story of a family, who just happen to be the Holy Family. We all relate to family. I witnessed a self-proclaimed atheist meet the actress who portrays Mary after the screening and started weeping he was so moved by the film.
JK: It took a while to set up financing. Given the underlying book by Anne Rice, the success of previous films about Jesus, and the long aftermarket for holiday season perennials on TV, why was Hollywood slow to get on board?
Cyrus Nowrasteh: Anne Rice wrote a beautiful novel, and there was and continued to be interest in adapting it to a movie. In an earlier incarnation Paramount had control of it. But films don’t get made just because of interest, a movie like this can only get made if the filmmaker at the center of it believes and desperately wants the film made. The obstacles seemed insurmountable we were rejected by every studio in town. The film was made on a budget and independently because there was simply no other way.
JK: Participants in the Ricochet.com forum can be pretty skeptical about Hollywood. You know other Hollywood conservatives. Is the mood in the community improving, and if so can we expect more film and television production directed toward much neglected heartland audiences? Or is Hollywood still leaving money on the table?
Cyrus Nowrasteh: With movies like American Sniper, 13 Hours, and The Young Messiah being made I think people of all political stripes can be optimistic.
JK: Thank you, Cyrus. The Young Messiah is scheduled for domestic release in theaters beginning Friday, March 11, 2016.
Cyrus Nowrasteh: Thank you, Jim. I urge you and your readers to see The Young Messiah with family and friends.
For further details, check out Raymond Arroyo’s interview with Cyrus for EWTN, including clips from The Young Messiah and fascinating details about the casting the young Jesus.