The Passion of the Christ — Mel Gibson’s gory vision of the final days of Jesus — was nothing if not controversial when it was released back in 2004. Rumours of a sequel have been circulating ever since, and now it looks like a second project has finally been confirmed. According to Oscar-nominated screenwriter Randall Wallace (who has previously worked with Gibson on Braveheart and Hacksaw Ridge), a script for Passion of the Christ 2 is already in the works.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Wallace explains that the project is becoming increasingly difficult to keep under wraps. The sequel will apparently pick up where the original left off, focusing on telling the story of the resurrection of Jesus. As a religion major at Duke University, Wallace says “I always wanted to tell this story, The Passion is the beginning and there’s a lot more story to tell.”
The original movie, starring Jim Caviezel in the lead role, was a gritty, gut-wrenching depiction of the crucifixion story from the Bible. It split audiences right down the middle (a 49 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 47 percent rating on Metacritic reflect this), and caused controversy just about everywhere it was released. Some praised the film and Caviezel’s performance in particular, while other viewers were turned off by its over-the-top violence and perceived anti-semitism. Opinion was similarly split on its Biblical accuracy, although the filmmakers never claimed they were trying to be 100 percent faithful to the source material.
The initial theatrical run of The Passion ran into trouble in some of the more religious countries where it was released. In some cases the film was banned outright, as was the case in Malaysia before Christian protests saw the restriction lifted. In Israel, theatrical distributors refused to market the movie. Despite (or maybe because of) all this controversy, The Passion went on to earn a very respectable $611 million worldwide. Its success resulted in a surge of faith-based movies as studio bosses realised that religious audiences would flock to see live-action depictions of their favourite sacred stories.
Its captive audience is probably the main factor driving demand for a sequel to The Passion. The original movie was, for the most part, a hit with Christians, and many would like to see the filmmakers tackle more New Testament subject matter. “The evangelical community considers The Passion the biggest movie ever out of Hollywood,” says Wallace, “and they kept telling us that they think a sequel will be even bigger.”
As you’d expect at this early stage, details about Passion of the Christ 2 are pretty thin on the ground. It’s not known when the film is expected to be released, for example, or whether Jim Caviezel or any other members of the original cast will return. There has been no studio or financial backing confirmed as yet either. But given the proposed subject matter, you can at least be reasonably assured it won’t be the same grizzly 2-hour ordeal as the first movie.
Q: Do you think Passion of the Christ 2 will stir up controversy again when it hits theaters? Let us know in the comments below.