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Universal Pictures Joins See-Saw Films in Developing a Mary Magdalene Biopic

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Looks like one of the most talked-about, but rarely heard from, female figures from the Bible is finally getting her due. Universal Pictures has just joined forces with See-Saw Films (the indie film company behind such British films as The King’s Speech, Macbeth, and Mr. Holmes) to develop a biopic on the life of Mary Magdalene.

According to Deadline Hollywood, the film aims to be “an authentic and humanistic portrait of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history.”

This is pretty cool. As someone who was raised Catholic, I’ve always thought that Mary Magdalene is someone who could and should be more of a role model to women and girls growing up in Catholicism if the institution weren’t so relentlessly sexist.

As it is, while there are plenty of female saints, the most important is, of course, the Virgin Mary, because she was chosen as the vessel through which Jesus was going to arrive. Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene is often mistakenly conflated with an unnamed repentant prostitute in the Bible, and despite being one of the few people who was consistently at Jesus’ side, never seems to get the spotlight. Some people, like my very talented and opinionated brother, who wrote this paper back in the day on Mary Magdalene possibly being the Beloved Disciple who wrote the Fourth Gospel, suggest that she and her true contributions to the religion have been erased from Catholic history, leaving her as a mere footnote.

Gotta love Patriarchy. Ladies do work, men take credit.

In any case, this will be the first time her story is told in film. Peter Kujawski and Robert Walak of Universal said:

Mary Magdalene is a strong character, who was so unique in her time, and her story will give audiences a chance to experience the cultural turbulence, human passions, and devotional beliefs that set in motion so much of modern history. We are thrilled to partner with Iain and Emile at See-Saw on this project, who have a track record for developing compelling material with a focus on quality. We’re certain that Garth’s [Davies, director] artistic vision will deliver an incredibly powerful new perspective on one of the world’s most well-known origin stories.

Meanwhile, Emile Sherman and Iain Canning of See-Saw have this to say about the collaboration:

We’re delighted to be beginning a new production relationship with Universal Pictures International Productions on Mary Magdalene. Peter and Robert were instantly taken with the material and director Garth Davies’ approach to the material. The story of Mary Magdalene’s life and legacy has not been fully explored on film and so we look forward to working with UPIP and bringing this exciting story to the screen.

I really hope that they do this right, and that they don’t sensationalize her (a la The DaVinci Code). We’ll see what happens, too, when it comes down to casting. However, I’m heartened by the fact that the film is being written by two female screenwriters, Helen Edmundson & Philippa Goslett.

The untitled Mary Magdalene film is due to arrive sometime in 2017. What do you think? Are you interested in a female-focused film set in the Biblical era?

(image via Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P./Flickr)

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