'Real Jesus' coming to small screen, 'Samson & Delilah' to big screen

by Gregory Tomlin |

(Jesus of Nazareth (1977))

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – Jesus is usually good for ratings, and the Smithsonian Channel hopes the actor who portrayed him in the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth will help pull in a large audience on a new project.

Viewers won't get to see the blue-eyed Robert Powell performing new miracles in this program. The four part-series will instead focus on the actor as he returns to Israel in search of the historical Jesus – a term that usually means claims of his divinity are dismissed or treated skeptically.

Jesus of Nazareth is a cultural phenomenon, and essentially created a new image of Jesus for the television age. ... It's a privilege to have gained access to the original film footage and Robert Powell's unique connection to this story makes him a wonderful and insightful guide to the historical Jesus and the Holy Land.
- David Royle, Smithsonian Channel

Powell will meet with archaeologists and scholars who specialize in early Christianity to gain insight into who Jesus was in the context of ancient, Roman-ruled Israel. According to the network, the series will combine footage from the classic miniseries with Powell's travels and conversations.

"Jesus of Nazareth is a cultural phenomenon, and essentially created a new image of Jesus for the television age," David Royle, Smithsonian Channel's Executive VP of Programming and Production, told Deadline.

"It's a privilege to have gained access to the original film footage and Robert Powell's unique connection to this story makes him a wonderful and insightful guide to the historical Jesus and the Holy Land."

Just as the new Smithsonian project promises a look at the "real Jesus," the producers of a new version of Samson and Delilah also claim it will not lose sight of the character's human frailties.

According to Deadline, the film will be shot in Morocco and Israel and will rival the scope of Cecil B. DeMille's 1949 standard, which won an Oscar. The film is reportedly being financed by three companies – Hyde Park Entertainment, Getaway Pictures and United Channel Movies.

The entertainment site reports "significant names are circling the lead roles" for Samson and the Philistine Delilah. The movie will be based on the book about the biblical duo by Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

"Jabotinsky's book is known to have a unique interpretation of the biblical story which empowers Samson with supernatural strength, yet at the same time never losing sight of the character's human qualities," Deadline reported. 

Samson's story is told in the biblical book of Judges.

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