EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired Pontius Pilate, a script by Woman On Top scribe Vera Blasi about one of the most vilified figures in history, even before Mick Jagger sang about him. It becomes the latest in a growing list of Biblical-themed projects taking shape at studios all over town. Mark Johnson will produce through his Gran Via banner, Lynn Harris is steering the project and they are already talking to directors. I got hold of a draft, and while it is always a challenge to mount a big budget period film, this one is strong enough to follow a fast track toward production.
This script follows the evolution of Lucius Pontius Pilate from the sensitive son of a Roman Knight into a ferocious soldier whose warrior exploits make him a general and puts him on a political track under the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Promised a military governorship in Egypt, Pilate is instead assigned by Tiberius to become the prefect of Judea, at a time when Jerusalem was a cauldron of religious tensions between various factions of the Jewish faith. Pilate veers from the political fast track into the express lane to hell and historical infamy. Rather than a straight ahead Biblical film, Blasi’s script reads almost like a Biblical era Twilight Zone episode in which a proud, capable Roman soldier gets in way over his head. His arrogance and inability to grasp the devoutness of the citizenry and its hatred for the Roman occupiers and their pagan gods leads him to make catastrophic decisions. All of this puts him in a desperate situation and in need of public approval when he is asked to decide the fate of a 33-year old rabbi accused by religious elders of claiming he is King of the Jews. Along the way, such Roman emperors including Caligula and Tiberius and New Testament figures like John the Baptist, Salome and Mary Magdalene are seen in a tale that culminates with Pilate’s fateful decision to allow Jesus Christ to be crucified. (more…)