EXCLUSIVE: Religion-themed pics are all the rage, and I’ve learned that Gravity and Harry Potter producer David Heyman is set to produce the adaptation of Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth. The bestseller was acquired by Lionsgate in December, and former Focus Features chief James Schamus is penning the adaptation.
Iranian-American writer and scholar Aslan’s book was published in 2013 and named one of the best of the year by Publishers Weekly. It’s a historical account of the life of Jesus, analyzing the various religious perspectives on him as well as the creation of Christianity. Set in 1st century Palestine, the story challenges long-held assumptions about the Galilean. “Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Dr. Aslan sheds light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived,” Lionsgate said when it picked up the title. Aslan added at the time that his objective in writing the book was to “illuminate the life of Jesus in a humanistic, as opposed to religious, context.” While Schamus pens the transfer, I hear that top directors have expressed interest.
Heyman will produce with Jeff Clifford. The pair also is teamed on The Queen Of The Tearling, the adaptation of Erika Johansen’s upcoming novel that’s part of a trilogy to be published by HarperCollins this year. Mark L Smith, who co-wrote Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant that’s set to star Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio, is writing Tearling. Heyman’s Harry Potter franchise star Emma Watson is attached. The busy Heyman also has holiday release Paddington on deck and will produce Warner Bros’ Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, which marks the screenwriting debut of Potter creator JK Rowling.