EXCLUSIVE: Rooney Mara is being pursued for the role and engaged in discussions to play Mary Magdalene in Garth Davis’ biopic of the figure. Universal Pictures International Productions is partnering with See-Saw Films on the biopic, which is set to be an authentic and humanistic portrait of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history. Mara can currently be seen in her Oscar nominated role in Carol, and an upcoming untitled Terrence Malick film, as well as Davis’ Lion, also produced by See-Saw, scheduled for release at the end of the year.
“Rooney’s raw, brave approach to performances, coupled with her deeply magnetic inner life, holds all the dimensions needed to bring to life one of history’s most misunderstood woman — Mary Magdalene,” said Davis. “Having worked with Rooney on Lion, I know she is a once in a lifetime talent.”
A devoted follower of Jesus Christ who is believed to have witnessed both his crucifixion and resurrection, Magdalene has been portrayed a number of times on screen. Barbara Hershey played her in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ, which infamously included an imagined scene of Mary Magdalene and Jesus making love and having a baby together (although the scene is revealed to be a dream sequence as Jesus, on the cross, briefly ponders a normal life as a mortal). A largely silent Monica Bellucci played her in Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ, while Anne Bancroft portrayed her in the 1977 mega TV production Jesus Of Nazareth. Most recently, her character was at the heart of Dan Brown’s global novel phenom The Da Vinci Code as well as the Tom Hanks-starring movie adaptation.
At a certain point in the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene developed a reputation as being a repentant prostitute, though none of the four Gospels — which she is mentioned a dozen times (more than some of the apostles even) — support that description.
Davis will direct the new movie from a script by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett. Production is set to begin this summer for an anticipated release in 2017. See-Saw’s Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, who have grown from strength to strength ever since they conquered the box office and awards season with The King’s Speech, will produce.
Davis and See-Saw already have Lion, with Mara, Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel, coming down the pipeline. They also worked together on the TV series Top Of The Lake. The film will be overseen at Universal by UPIP managing director Peter Kujawski and recently appointed co-managing director Robert Walak, who negotiated the deal along with UPIP Business Affairs head Alexander Jooss. Walak joined Universal from the Weinstein Co last October. Film4 co-developed the project with Film4.
Universal will release the film in all international territories except Australia and New Zealand, where it will be handled by See Saw’s longtime partners Transmission Films. Film4 co-developed the film with See-Saw.
Mara is repped by WME and Management 360.