The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

'The Bible' producer Burnett follows TV miniseries with big-screen 'Son of God'

  • Print

TORONTO - The ratings success of the 10-hour miniseries "The Bible" has made a convert out of Hollywood, which seems much more inclined to pursue faith-based film and TV projects these days, say husband-and-wife producing team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

The duo are following up their run on History with a big screen feature film about Jesus Christ's life, "Son of God," set to open this weekend. They also have more TV plans including a four-hour miniseries for CBS based on the bestselling novel "The Dovekeepers," and a 12-hour series for NBC called "A.D.," which begins in the days after Jesus' death.

"I think certainly the success of 'The Bible' series got the attention of Hollywood," Downey said, sitting alongside Burnett during a recent stop in Toronto.

"We're very encouraged (by) that, there's obviously an audience for faith material and I think that audience has been underserved."

Their five-part series "The Bible" was an unexpected hit last year, garnering 13.1 million viewers when it premiered in March.

Burnett says the sprawling production held broad appeal, disproving the notion that religious fare is niche programming.

"'The Bible,' however you look at it, had 100 million viewers just in America," says the TV veteran, best known as the reality show guru behind "Survivor," "The Apprentice" and "The Voice."

"In Canada, it beat hockey. It's number one in Hong Kong and that has given a lot of people confidence to approach the Biblical subject matter and certainly with us, with our movie 'Son of God.'"

Other religious-inspired titles headed to the multiplex include the big-budget Russell Crowe vehicle "Noah," with Darren Aronofsky helming the First Testament tale about Noah and his ark, and Ridley Scott's "Exodus," with Christian Bale as Moses.

"Son of God" takes a PG-13 look at the life of Jesus, beginning with his birth and early teachings and following him through the Crucifixion and resurrection. Diogo Morgado portrays Jesus, while Downey — best known for starring in "Touched By An Angel" — appears as Mary, mother to the adult Jesus.

Burnett says faith-based material has always been a winner with audiences.

"If you think of 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' or 'The Ten Commandments,' whenever they're placed on prime-time TV they beat current programming," he says.

"Every generation or decade, someone needs to step up and say: 'I'm going to do this' and that's what we did."

"Son of God" is made up of previously aired footage from "The Bible" along with new scenes that were shot when the miniseries was filmed in Morocco in 2012.

Burnett says the duo decided to make a film as they became increasingly aware they had more than enough material.

Going bigger meant an opportunity to offer more visual effects, Downey adds, noting that miracles — including a scene in which Jesus walks on water — were tweaked for maximum theatrical impact.

But Burnett says the biggest advantage of releasing "Son of God" on the big screen has been the effect it has had on some audiences.

At some screenings, pastors have stood up at the end of the film to lead everyone in prayer, he says.

"It took 12 months for the edit team to revisit this and to re-do the music and 5.1 surround sound but it was so worth it because what we're feeling and hearing across the nation, across Canada and across America, is the experience people are having watching this on a big screen in community," says Burnett, adding that the movie is also being released with Korean subtitles and dubbed into Spanish.

"In a screening in Los Angeles, 40 people came to Christ as a result of watching the movie. You just don't hear that kind of stuff happening."

None of this is to say that Burnett is backing away from reality fare.

The TV heavyweight just as readily touts his "Dragons' Den" adaptation "Shark Tank" and the return of the singing competition "The Voice." His new projects include a weekly series featuring Mexican wrestling on Robert Rodriguez's El Rey Network.

If there's one thing uniting it all, it's a focus on "family friendly fare," he says. Even the cut-throat "Survivor" offers a moral lesson.

"The core value of 'Survivor' is always one simple thing, which is: In the end, the very people you got rid of are the ones granting you the gift of a million dollars. So therefore, the people that lie and cheat other people never win 'Survivor'," says Burnett.

"People who make things about murder or drugs or ultra-crime, I guess they think 'edgy' might get ratings but I think we show that family-friendly (material) really works."

"Son of God" opens Friday.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Trucks power through flooded underpass at Main St and Higgins

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese fight as a male defends his nesting site at the duck pond at St Vital Park Thursday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 08- May 10, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Two Canadian geese perch themselves for a perfect view looking at the surroundings from the top of a railway bridge near Lombard Ave and Waterfront Drive in downtown Winnipeg- Standup photo- May 01, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do high-profile endorsements for political candidates influence your voting decisions?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google