In what may be one of the bolder casting exercises in some time, Joaquin Phoenix is being eyed to play Jesus Christ in Garth Davis’ Mary Magdalene opposite Rooney Mara. A deal is still some way off being done, with scheduling believed to be one concern, but if this goes down it would be a clear statement of intent from the filmmakers about the kind of film they’re trying to make.
Phoenix is the very definition of a mercurial talent, transforming from role to role, whether the stoner private detective in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, the lovelorn writer forming an emotional connection with his phone’s operating system in Spike Jonze’s Her or even as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.
Playing Jesus could offer a defining moment for the versatile and unpredictable Phoenix. He doesn’t necessarily invoke – physically at least – some previous seminal portrayals such as Jim Caviezel in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, but Phoenix does certainly possess the acting chops and intensity to bring the character to life.
Buzz has been growing about Mary Magdalene ever since Deadline broke the news that The King’s Speech producers See-Saw Films were putting the project together, with Universal on-board for international and the Weinstein Co. taking domestic. Rooney Mara joined the mix shortly after in the title role. Were a deal struck with Phoenix, this would raise the curiosity about the project even more with the assembling talent indicating an edgy, decidedly indie take on the greatest story ever told. It is set to be an authentic and humanistic portrait of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history.