“Daunting” is one word Ewan McGregor used about stepping into the role of Jesus in the new film “Last Days in the Desert.”
“Freaked out” is another way he described his feelings about the task, McGregor said.
That’s why the Scottish actor, who has played the pope’s administrator in “Angels & Demons” and a familiarly robed and bearded Jedi in the Star Wars prequels, chose instead to focus on the humanness of Jesus — the Jesus who still is working out his mission; who audiences see dying, but not resurrected.
“When I started to think about those human qualities, about trying to communicate with your father and being frustrated you’re not getting the answers you need, I find him there,” he said.
“Last Days in the Desert,” which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015 and opens in theaters nationwide May 13, stars McGregor as both Jesus and the devil — or Yeshua and The Demon, as they are called throughout the film.
It’s writer-director Rodrigo Garcia’s imagining of Jesus meeting a family as he is leaving the wilderness, where he spent 40 days fasting and praying, and wanting to help them. The teenage boy and his father are struggling to reconcile their plans for the boy’s life: The boy wants to go to Jerusalem. His father wants him to stay in the desert.
The story came to him “wholesale,” said Garcia, who noted in the film’s production notes he is not a “devout person” although he grew up “in a Catholic world.”
“I joke that I don’t know what part of my body this came from because all my other movies have been contemporary and strictly psychological and realistic and about middle-class women,” he said.
It was the humanness of Jesus that appealed to the Colombian filmmaker, the son of writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. After all, Rodrigo Garcia said, how do you “write God?” But as he began to write the script, themes emerged that interested him: fathers and sons, what we do to please our parents and what we do to please ourselves, whether our destinies are written.
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