by Michael Bay
Let me begin by saying that it was not my intention to offend anyone. To the degree that I may have done so, I fully apologize on behalf of both Universal Studios and myself.
That being said, I think it worth noting that most of those critics sharpening their swords have yet to actually see Easter: The Rise of Jesus. Our advanced screenings have been limited to a few producers, staff, and specially invited guests. It is quite likely, therefore, that anything you’ve read on the Internet about the movie is coming to you second, third, or even fourth hand.
Allow me then to ignore all of those wild and untrue rumors about the move, and focus instead on those actual elements of the movie, which, having been leaked without my knowledge or consent, are causing a small amount of controversy in small, closed-minded circles.
To that end, let me first address the so-called “outrage” over our casting decisions.
Neither Universal Studios nor myself, nor anyone else involved with greenlighting the production are fools. We all knew the casting of Vin Diesel as Jesus would be controversial. We also knew that, artistically, he was the only choice. Vin was also our first choice. Rumors that Channing Tatum had initially been inked are just that: rumors.
Yes, we did speak briefly with Kevin James during the initial conceptual stages, since it was right in between the releases of Mall Cop and Zookeeper and Kevin’s Q score was off the charts. Despite his potential draw, however, we recognized that Easter: The Rise of Jesus was above all a historic period piece that would require a commitment to realism if audiences were going to connect. And as much as I love Kevin, I just couldn’t picture audiences buying his single-handed defeat of the Pharisees’ ninja assassins in the adrenaline-soaked moneychangers scene. Haters can say what they want about Vin, but let me tell you: when you see Vin Diesel decapitate a Roman centurion with a single roundhouse kick, you mother-fucking believe it. All of these criticisms of Vin — and all our other castings — miss the artistic nuance we were trying to bring to the project.
And that’s probably as good a segue as any to go into the apostle controversy.
Do I know that the real Jesus chose twelve apostles? Of course I do. Did Jesus know that teams of over six don’t focus-group well? Probably not. So when you think about it, it’s really a wash.
Universal and I decided that by reducing the team to five apostles, we could create in each a kind of amalgam of multiple apostles that represented the raw essence of what the original twelve stood for — five “apostle archetypes,” if you will. For example, Judas was obviously the archetype villain, and you need to have that character in any story. But we also wanted a character that would be the personification of friendly, folksy wisdom and support, and I have to say I thought Wilfred Brimley was fabulous as the apostle Pops. The comic relief of Rob Schneider’s apostle Cheeky was no less valuable to the story, and I believe that Mila Kunis and Megan Fox were practically born to play their respective sexy girl-next-door and sexy bad-girl apostle archetypes. And young Jaden Smith’s character Saber was the very embodiment of that most beloved and treasured of all archetype apostles: the hot young male who tests well with the 12-19 demographic while still counting as a minority hire.
As for all those historian-wanna-be-s who are so damn upset about the film’s supposed “anachronisms,” well, cry my a frickin’ river. Hey, were you alive in the year 100, or 200, or whenever it was Jesus lived? No, you weren’t. So the truth of it is, you don’t know what women’s swimwear looked like, nor do you know whether or not they wore it to wash horse carts with sponges and hoses in slow motion. And you’re seriously going to tell me that Satan can appear as a lion, a snake and a bush, but somehow he lacks the power to appear as a 30-foot tall warrior robot with lasers and rocket launchers? Please.
Finally, I probably need to address what has become Easter: The Rise of Jesus’s biggest controversy: the film’s ending. I swear, if I had a dollar for every so-called “film critic” out there who pointed out that Jesus and Judas are supposed to die in the end, or declare from their ivory towers that without Christ’s ultimate sacrifice the entire Easter story loses its very meaning, then I still wouldn’t have the tiniest fraction of what this film was optioned for, so they can all kiss my fucking ass.
Look, I get that the Bible has a very particular story line. But whoever wrote the Bible wasn’t contractually obligated to produce two sequels to Jesus’ story. Hell, they didn’t even bother to ever choose between the four rewrites. So, yeah, I get that we tell a very slightly different story than did Mark, or John, or… or… I want to say Karl? Never mind, it’s not important. My point is that when you’re one and out, dying on the cross makes sense. But when you have that one-in-a-million will-they-or-won’t-they chemistry between two stars like Vin’s Jesus and Kristen Stewart’s Mary Magdalene, you don’t just toss that aside for non-franchise peanuts.
So to all of the haters, let me quote Shakespeare (or maybe Aristotle): Let you who have not sinned cast the first stone. And please, wait to see Easter: The Rise of Jesus before you make that judgment.
It opens Easter weekend in a theatre near you.