What was Jesus like as a child? That’s the idea behind the recently released film The Young Messiah. For director Cyrus Nowrasteh, it has been a true labour of love, as Julie Houghton reports.
What motivated you to make The Young Messiah?
There is a rich history of Jesus movies that have dramatised Jesus’ ministry and crucifixion, but none have ever offered glimpses into his life as a boy. What kind of child was he? What was his family like? What kind of parents were Joseph and Mary? How could they guide and protect this special child?”
Tell me about the process from conception to release.
Anne Rice wrote a rave review of our previous film, The Stoning of Soraya M. It turned out that we knew some of the same people, and my wife Betsy had read her novel, Christ the Lord. Ms Rice was amenable to us trying to set it up as a movie project and adapt Christ the Lord, which later became retitled as The Young Messiah.
Is it fair to say that in this film you are entering the realm of fiction but based on truth?
Yes. It is clearly inspired by Scripture and rooted in history—but fiction. We are imagining a year in the life of young Jesus.
What were your concerns with embarking on a project like this?
It is always sensitive when venturing into areas of faith. We wanted to be respectful and reverential, and I think we have been.
Are you marketing The Young Messiah to a Christian or non-Christian audience?
Both—I don’t like to limit this as purely a faith-based film. When movies like The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur were made, they were just movies for a broad audience. That’s what we are. This story is for everyone.
What was in your mind when casting it?
To find the best actors possible. We had to start with the boy. We decided that wherever the boy was from, whatever his accent, that would be the accent of the movie. It was a global search and we found Adam Greaves-Neal.
How did Sean Bean feel about starring in it?
Sean was quite excited to play the part, and is magnificent in the role. I very much enjoyed working with him.
What has your career trajectory been?
I’ve been in Hollywood a long time, have worked in television, cable and movies. I often characterise my career as ‘a slow crawl’. The move to directing was very important—I think it helped get my scripts produced.
What role does faith play in your own life?
It is very much a part of my life. Thanks, in part, to making The Young Messiah. My faith grew deeper as a result of taking the journey of making this film.
What future projects are on the drawing board for you?
A number of things are being considered for both TV and film. One is a horror film, another WW2 holocaust story, dealing with a Middle East kidnapping. We’ll see…
What do you want audiences to take away from seeing The Young Messiah?
A great story that makes them think and feel and talk to one another about faith, about life, about one another. Telling this story and what it has to say and what it’s about are things that I think are very dear to many people, not just Christians. Family and faith are universal. Each of us brings something different to it and will take away something different from it. I just hope the audience thinks it’s a beautiful story and that it was worth the experience to go and watch it.