The Nativity Story

Covering the 2006 movie "The Nativity Story," about the story of Mary and Joseph
and their journey together as they bring the Messiah into the world.

~~One Family. One Journey. One child, who would change the world. Forever.~~

My Photo
Location: Washington, D.C.

I am a spoo.
What do spoo do?
Mainly, they *sigh.*
What are spoo?
Contact Me

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Interview with Mike Rich

Mark Moring from Christianity Today Movies has conducted a fabulous interview with Mike Rich, the scriptwriter of "The Nativity Story." An excerpt:

I hear you've just seen a rough cut of the film. How did you like it?

Mike Rich: For a writer, that's always an anxious moment, the first time you see a cut of the film. What you want to see is the diamond that you can polish—and we saw it. The quality of the film so close to the end of production was really remarkable. I'm really grateful to Catherine for that. As a writer, you visualize what the scenes might look like. So it's tremendously exciting to see that what I saw in my mind was actually put down on film—always the equal of what I had visualized, and sometimes even exceeding it.

Do you see this movie attracting an audience beyond Christians?

Rich: I do. Even for non-believers, this is a compelling story. We have sent the script out to those way outside of Christian evangelicals. We've shown it to Jewish scholars, who are appreciative of the fact that we were respectful of their traditions and culture.

I'm often asked what I hope to get out of this, what we're hoping to accomplish. We live in a time where the month of December goes by in a heartbeat because of the hectic nature of the season. There's very little time for families to talk about this story. If this movie can serve as a two-hour window in that season to get families talking about this remarkable, amazing story of faith, then that will be a great thing.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Second Behind-the-Scenes Featurette!

Here is another featurette from the official site with commentary from the director, Catherine Hardwicke, showing more behind-the-scenes footage than the prior featurette:

Click here if the video doesn't play.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"Nativity" Photo Book to be released in November

A hardcover photo book using pictures from "The Nativity Story" and scripture references will be released on November 30, 2006, before the movie's release on December 1. You can pre-order the book here.

Exclusive photos taken on the set of The Nativity Story, together with scripture from the New Living Translation, present the story of Jesus’ birth in vivid detail. Similar to The Passion, this gift book presents the most memorable and magical scenes from the movie. The Nativity Story tells the extraordinary tale of two common people, Mary and Joseph, a miraculous pregnancy, an arduous journey, and the history-defining birth of Jesus. Driven by powerful moving images and told through the Scriptures, this book will enhance the movie experience.

The Nativity Story, directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown), written by Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, Radio, The Rookie) and starring Keisha Castle-Hughes (nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in Whale Rider) as Mary opens on 3,000 screens nationwide December 1, 2006. The film is currently in production with locations in Matera, Italy, and Morocco. New Line Cinema is the most successful independent film company in the world. A pioneer in franchise filmmaking, New Line’s Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most successful film franchises in history. 96 pages, hardcover with jacket makes an excellent gift or coffee table book.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Focus of Mary's Spiritual Impact in "Nativity"

Jesus' mother gains spiritual, iconic import
Saturday, August 12, 2006
NANCY HAUGHT The Oregonian

For Hollywood screenwriters, it's all about character. Even when you're writing about the mother of Jesus. "Character drives the story," says Mike Rich, the Portland screenwriter whose films include "Finding Forrester," "The Rookie" and "Radio." "All my movies follow ordinary people doing extraordinary things."

His latest, "The Nativity Story," recounts the circumstances of Jesus' birth, mostly through the eyes of his mother, Mary. Played by 16-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes, the radiant heroine of "Whale Rider," Mary is extraordinary enough, according to the New Testament, that God chose her to bear his son. She also is ordinary enough, according to many Christians, that she is the shining example of how to live a life of faith.

As Rich worked on his screenplay, he says he thought about Mary's youth, her place in culture, her personal courage and her faith. She trusted in God, in Joseph and in the child she carried, he says. Another Mary -- Mary Magdalene -- has been queen of pop culture since Dan Brown wove her into his best-selling novel, "The Da Vinci Code." But interest in the Virgin Mary is growing again, even as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches prepare to celebrate her Assumption into heaven or Dormition ("sleeping"). Both feasts are Tuesday.

Elaine Park, a professor of biblical studies at Mt. Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, sees a resurgence of interest in Mary, the mother of Jesus. In part, she says, it's because of Pope John Paul II and his habit of openly sharing his devotion to Mary and to the Rosary, a traditional set of prayers dedicated to her. His experiences appealed to a younger generation, hungry for the mystical comfort that he had found in her.

Older Catholics remember hymns and devotions that honored Mary as the Queen of Heaven, Queen of Peace or Our Lady of Sorrows. They have been reluctant to let go of their devotions even as, they say, the larger church has seemed to move away from Mary. Pilgrims continue to visit Marian shrines in staggering numbers. In 1999, more than 5 million people traveled to Lourdes in France and at least that many to Fatima in Portugal, according to a 2000 study. And Mary, who is revered in Islam as the mother of the prophet Jesus, has been finding her way into Protestant churches, too. In recent years, many non-Catholic Christians have reclaimed parts of her tradition that had once seemed too Catholic to consider. They remember her as a witness of Jesus' crucifixion, perhaps as one of the women who found the tomb empty on Easter morning. Many who saw the film "The Passion of the Christ" were touched by scenes of Mary remembering her son as a child.

Now Rich hopes that Mary will be the lens of faith through which families will see and appreciate the story of Jesus' birth. "Over time, Mary has become an iconic figure," Rich says. "I followed a kind of reverse process: taking Mary the icon and stepping back to Mary the woman and stepping back again to Mary the child."

That is similar to what the Catholic Church has done since the Second Vatican Council, Park says. The council's decision not to devote an entire document to Mary, but to include her in a broader document on the church, meant that for many Catholics, the church "lost" Mary, she says. Charlene Spretnak is a Catholic writer who agrees with all the decisions of Vatican II, "except the ones that radically de-emphasized the meaning and presence of the Virgin Mary." Spretnak, who teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies, wrote "Missing Mary: The Queen of Heaven and her Re-Emergence in the Modern Church" (Palgrave McMillan, $14.95, 280 pages). She laments the loss of Marian statues from prominent places in churches and the disappearance of hymns and prayers from many modern liturgies. The result, she says, is "a sadly reduced female presence in Catholic worship." "Most importantly," she adds, "allowing only the historical, literal understanding of Mary, while denying the symbolic, cosmological, mystical sense of her full spiritual presence known to traditional Catholicism, reduces the range of our spiritual lives."

The loss of Mary's larger spiritual significance "has made the Catholic Church more rational and more modern but has left Catholicism less spiritually rich," she says. Park disagrees, arguing that an emphasis on the real flesh-and-blood Mary makes her more accessible to flesh-and-blood Christians. "In my own experience, I dropped my devotion to her for a time," she says. Mary seemed too perfect, too idealized for her to connect with. "But it has been renewed in recent years by coming to see her as a real person, a real woman who lived in concrete, historical circumstances, rather than looking at the art and glory that made her look so different and so beyond us." The circumstances of Mary's life speak to believers, she says. "She was a young woman who lived in Nazareth -- a small, insignificant, very poor village. She was a woman who had to deal with political oppression, poverty, uncertainty. "We easily forget one of the first times we see her in Scripture, going to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She is going to be there with another woman who is pregnant, who was much older, to be with her in loving support," Park says. "And our last image of her is in Acts of the Apostles, being there in the community before and during the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. She is present with all of us, people in need, people who are praying, people who are celebrating."

After months of research, writing and filming "The Nativity Story," Rich, from his Protestant perspective, sees Mary no longer as an icon but as an ordinary human being of extraordinary character. "Not much anymore in our lives is black and white," he says. "But this is a young woman who made a black-and-white decision: She was willing to have the faith to follow the most remarkable of directives."

Nancy Haught: 503-294-7625;

Friday, August 11, 2006

Entertainment Weekly Movie Preview

EW finds out from the director of "Nativity," Catherine Hardwicke, what other articles have alluded to (see here and here) that the most difficult part of shooting "Nativity" was working with.....the animals:

Filming the birth of Jesus Christ certainly presented myriad challenges for Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen), but what was the most hair-pullingly difficult? Was it marshaling experts in biblical scholarship, Aramaic dialects, and ancient astronomy? No sweat. Launching a worldwide casting call for the perfect Mary? Not an issue, since she knew all along Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) was her one and only. How about getting a cow to lie down on cue? Bingo. That was, in fact, just step one in preparing to film the nativity in Matera, Italy, which the irrepressible Hardwicke breathlessly recounted for us here:

''Waking up that morning, planning to go film the birth of Christ, not realizing that, okay: The sun goes down at, say, 8:30, so we had a window from 8:30 p.m. to midnight — that's when the real babies have to leave, by Italian law. So around 8 p.m., we decide to get the big mama cow to go lie down in the back of the grotto. It takes four large men, farmer-type guys, maybe 25 minutes to get her down. Then her calf has to come up — or she gets upset — so we wrestle the baby cow down. Finally, those two are tranquil enough that we can bring in the donkey. All this is under the watchful eye of the Humane Society guy from Canada, who's on set with us 24/7.

''So we bring the donkey in, and we try to get the donkey to lie down. This donkey's been trained to lie down. But this night in particular, it does not want to lie down. So we bring backup donkey in. Finally, they get that one down, but it's an older donkey, and suddenly I hear the Humane Society guy yelling 'Bring me a cushion!' The old donkey had hemorrhoids. Now the sheep come in. Sheep are insane, mentally. They go into a spiraling vortex when they get agitated. It's the strangest phenomenon I have ever seen, and the most annoying.

''So then we've got all the animals lying down. Now the real baby, which is seven days old. Its beautiful Italian parents are there just hovering; they can't believe they agreed to let it come on the set, but it gets to be Baby Jesus, a Catholic fantasy, so they're excited. We're about to roll film. And the mother cow stands up and takes a dump all over the set. The Humane Society guy goes, 'That's it, she's been down too long, she has to get up.' And the only way she can get out is the baby has to leave, the donkey has to go away, so mother cow and calf can go and have a walk around the set. [Laughs] Oh, my God.

''That night, I'm telling you, the first night we tried to do it, the babies went home at midnight before we got to roll any film and we had to use a rubber baby instead.

''But the next night, we did it all over, and we got the real baby in there!''

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Big Screen Jesus

Big Screen Jesus
Two upcoming films target the 'Passion'
Mark Moring posted 8/01/2006 12:00AM

When Mel Gibson made The Passion of the Christ, no Hollywood studio would touch it, so the director funded it himself. But when the movie earned $371 million, Tinseltown took note, and it was only a matter of time before it decided to jump on the Jesus bandwagon.

Now two major Jesus-themed films are in the works: On December 1, New Line Cinema, which hit it big with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, releases The Nativity Story. And next Easter, Sony Pictures, the studio behind The Da Vinci Code, releases The Resurrection.

The Nativity Story tells the tale of Joseph and Mary, the journey of the magi, the rule of King Herod, and the birth of Christ. The Resurrection picks up where The Passion left off, telling the story of the 40 days between the Resurrection and the Ascension.

Christianity Today Movies, CT's online sister publication, visited the Nativity set in Italy in late May. Director Catherine Hardwicke was filming Joseph (Oscar Isaac) leading a pregnant Mary (Whale Rider's Keisha Castle-Hughes), riding sideways on a donkey, down a steep path on a rock-strewn hillside. Hardwicke decided she wanted to direct the film after reading Mike Rich's script.

"I was amazed at how good it was," Hardwicke said. "I had read the story in the Bible so many times, and the characters were so iconic. But Mike had gotten so inside the characters: 'What would it be like to be those people?'"

That's exactly what Rich (Finding Forrester, The Rookie, Radio) was aiming for.

"The Nativity is usually presented as an event-board story—this happened, then this happened, then this happened," said Rich, an evangelical who spent almost a year researching the story in order to be faithful to the Gospel accounts. "It's rarely presented as a character story. That's how I wanted to do it."

Meanwhile, The Resurrection will be based on a script from veteran screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd, who wrote such made-for-TV fare as Moses, Joseph, and Jacob. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling Left Behind series, is signed on as a producer.

Craig Detweiler, director of Reel Spirituality at Fuller Seminary, said these movies are a result of The Passion's success.

"The Passion demonstrated how many moviegoers are interested in faith-friendly films," he said. "It's supply and demand. As people of faith frequent movie theaters, Hollywood will make more movies aimed at them. They will film it, if you come."

For more coverage, visit

Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.