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The Nativity Story chronicles the arduous journey of two people, Mary and Joseph, a miraculous pregnancy, and the history-defining birth of Jesus. This dramatic and compelling story comes to life in a major motion picture starring Academy Award® nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) as Mary, Oscar Isaac (Guerrilla) as Joseph, and Academy Award® nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) as Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.
The Nativity Story is directed by Catherine Hardwicke from a screenplay by Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, The Rookie). It is scheduled for a December 2006 release. Filmmakers are bringing an unprecedented level of commitment to ensure the authenticity not only of the Nativity story itself, but of the film’s look as well. "We are looking for epic intimacy," says director Catherine Hardwicke. "We want this journey to be big and beautiful, but we want to feel what these people felt. I hope audiences can relate to the film on a personal level and find some inspiration to get through their own challenges and difficulties." Producer Wyck Godfrey adds, "We chose Catherine because she cuts against the grain of the picture-book version of the movie that could have been made. She has had great success at really capturing the lives of young people in particular, and the conflict, crisis, and pain of growing up. The idea of bringing her point of view to Biblical times is very interesting." She, writer Mike Rich, and production designer Stefano Ortolani spent countless hours researching the era to ensure every detail looked and felt authentic. Because the actual locations of Bethlehem and Nazareth have become fairly modernized over the years, the production decided to shoot in the village of Matera, Italy, which has been virtually unchanged for centuries (and was previously used as a location for The Passion of the Christ).
"Matera is more authentic than the actual sites now," says Rich. "Present-day Nazareth is a modern town. Jerusalem is a very modern town. Even Bethlehem is not what it used to be. Matera offers absolutely every authentic aspect of those communities." Additionally, the production journeyed to Ouarzazate, Morocco, where it shot scenes involving Herod’s castle and the temple of Jerusalem at the same locations used in such films as Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven.
Here are some great things for you to know about this film:
• Opens in Theaters December 1, 2006.
• This is the first time in nearly 50 years that a big-budget, Biblically-based story is being made into a major motion picture.
• When Mike Rich wrote this screenplay he wanted to portray the feelings and emotions that Mary and Joseph would have most likely been going through considering their circumstances. This film brings their story to life.
• The studio and filmmakers have worked hard to ensure that the The Nativity Story is both historically and biblically accurate: There are many Christians involved with the film, such as screenwriter Mike Rich and producer Wyck Godfrey, and a wide spectrum of Christian New Testament scholars and historians has been involved in the pre-production process.
• Shooting commenced on The Nativity Story in Italy May 1, and wrapped in Morocco in early July. While in Italy, filming took place in the town of Matera (the town where The Passion of the Christ was filmed). Additionally, New Line Cinema brought some influential Evangelical leaders to the set including Anne Graham Lotz and Frank Wright, President of the NRB. Both leaders also read the script; here is what they had to say:
“From what I have observed, THE NATIVITY STORY is Biblically accurate, historically authentic and visually stunning. Written with heart, directed with sensitivity, produced with excellence and performed with artistic grace, it is destined to become a beloved, cherished classic.”
– Anne Graham Lotz, AnGeL Ministries