The Scottish actor will be both characters, in Rodrigo Garcia´s new film. Movie recreates the 40 days that Jesus was tempted in the desert.
Ewan McGregor plays Jesus—and the Devil—in this recreation of Jesus’s 40 days in the desert. The movie was first announced on February 2014, but it was not until last December that the director and the actor revealed the double role of McGregor in “Last days in the desert”.
The film is an imagined chapter from Jesus´s 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert. While in the desert, the character of Jesus also encounters a family that is experiencing its own father/son difficulties. Tye Sheridan plays the Boy who wants to leave their bleak desert surroundings and travel to Jerusalem for a better life; his Father (Ciarán Hinds) insists he stays close to home.
McGregor played both main characters, with his longtime stunt double Nash Edgerton standing in for those scenes between Yeshua (as Jesus is called in the film) and the Devil. “I played Yeshua with total conviction that he was the son of God and that his father had asked him to go on this path, which would lead him to death—to die for people’s sins—and I tried to imagine what that might be like for a man”, McGregor said during the announcement of the premiere in Sundance last December. “And then when I played the demon, I was trying to chip away at that conviction. The demon’s trying to drag him away from that.”
Playing Jesus Christ and the Devil was initially intimidating for McGregor, who was immediately won over by Garcia’s spare and intimate 62-page script and the lure of working with Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.
“It helped to tap into the duality of Jesus and focus more on the human aspects of his character, I thought, Okay, he’s a man who’s struggling to communicate with his dad,” explained McGregor. “I felt actually the pressure come off myself. I’m not playing Jesus; I’m playing a man whose dad is God and he’s trying to speak to his dad. It’s really a film about the relationship between fathers and their sons. In every scene of the film, that’s at the heart of it.”
During the announcement of the Sundance premiere, McGregor emphasized the non-religious character of the film: “It’s not a Biblical story. It’s a story that Rodrigo Garcia invented,” he said “You could watch the film and not think that it’s Jesus. He could just be another holy guy, a rabbi, walking in the desert, looking for answers.”
He was also sure that there will no be any problem with the movie:“There’s nothing offensive. I’m not worried about it, because I believe very much in the heart of the film we made”.
THE DIRECTOR, RODRIGO GARCIA
In an exclusive interview with the newspaper Christianity today, Rodrigo Garcia, film director, explained how he wrote the character of Jesus:“I wrote a few pages in which I called him Jesus, but when you're writing a screenplay and it says ‘Jesus walks, Jesus says,’ after a while, the weight of the name is paralyzing”, because “in Spanish Jesus is a common name, but in English, it has big connotations, nobody in the English-speaking world names their kid Jesus, Once I decided I'm going to call him Yeshua, it liberated me."
Both Garcia and McGregor, confessed to Christianity Today how important this film is for both of them: “ I am as surprised as anyone else. I don't know what organ in my body it came from. It just came out of me.”, commented Garcia.
“I’ve never felt like a film was as important as this one for a long, long time. I was so moved by it, and so immediately passionate and connected to it.” “It was done with nothing but respect and passion,” said McGregor.
DOLBY FAMILY SOUND FELLOWSHIP
Even before its premiere, the movie has already received its first award, the Dolby Family Sound Fellowship, an initiative of the Dolby Institute, created last year for movies that showcase an innovative use of sound in storytelling. The Dolby Institute explained that they chose Garcia´s film “for its complex canvas and nuanced characters."
“Last Days in the Desert" will have its world premiere at the Eccles Theater at Park City High School in Utah on January 25th as part of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The film will be in all theaters next April.