Adapting well-known gospels into a biblical feature film is probably not an enviable task. Just ask Mel Gibson. Screenwriter Mike Rich, best known for the sports dramas The Rookie and Radio, took on this challenge when he decided to adapt two New Testament gospels about the birth of Jesus into a screenplay for The Nativity Story. In less than a year, that screenplay was turned into a movie by director Catherine Hardwicke, casting Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) as Mary and Oscar Isaac as Joseph.
ComingSoon.net spoke to the screenwriter about the quick evolution of this project.
ComingSoon.net: After writing movies like “Radio” and “The Rookie,” what made you want to take such a beloved and well-known story?
Mike Rich: Because some of the films you mentioned were all character pieces that had sports as a backdrop, as a writer, I was looking for a new challenge, a new genre to write in. There’s never a rhyme or reason to where a spark comes from, but I think for me, it took place in December ’04 when Newsweek and Time arrived on the same day, and they both had their cover stories on that famed day of the Nativity. I remember reading those and thinking to myself that it never had been approached from a character standpoint. I want to make sure that if I’m going to look into it that I was going to try to bring a fresh perspective to it. It wasn’t that moment I decided that I was going to write it, but I committed to doing the research and started about a year of research before writing it late last year.
CS: Who first prompted the decision to make it into a movie?
Rich: I started doing the research on the story and I told my agent, a gentleman by the name of Marty Bowen, about it, and he was very excited about it, encouraged me to do it. Then late last year, he sat me down over dinner and said, “I’m not going to be an agent anymore.” He had one of the most lucrative [agencies], enormously successful, and he said he wanted to become a producer. He wanted a new challenge and he asked if he could produce this film. We’re friends, we had a good professional relationship, so I said yes. He was starting a new production company with his friend Wick Godfrey, and they set it up with New Line. Marty read the script late December of last year, New Line purchased it about two weeks later in the middle of January, and Catherine was on board about two weeks after that. People ask me if this is the fastest production that I’ve ever been involved in. It’s not the fastest production I’ve been involved in, it’s the fastest production I’ve ever heard of, when you consider that I hadn’t even finished the script a year ago now. To get what was truly an international cast that is representative of every country you can think of except for the United States. Catherine was the United States. To be ready to film, and not just on a domestic venue, we’re filming in Madera, Italy and Morocco, it’s pretty amazing.
CS: Why do you think it’s so important to have this story turned into a movie right now?
Rich: I think the timing is perfect because