(Update: The article text suddenly disappeared from the site backend… Luckily, I had a partial draft saved.)

“I have no idea why, but I have been
fascinated by Jesus ever since I was a little boy.”

At first, the notion of anything
relating to Christianity coming from
Paul Verhoeven
seems like it comes from somewhere out of left
field, but when you stop and think about his filmography, things
start to make sense. Then it becomes brilliant. Verhoeven’s films
have always been filled with unrepentant realism (AKA sex and violence), which he sometimes mixes in with religious imagery and Christian subtext
– think Spetters, The Fourth Man, and Robocop in
particular. After moving to Los Angeles in 1985, Verhoeven joined the
Jesus Seminar – a group of scholars in theology, philosophy,
linguistics, and biblical history – as a way to research a future
film project on the life of the historical Jesus.

The film was never made – and might
not ever be made to hear the sound of it – but what did come out of
more than twenty years of research is Jesus of Nazareth, a
book written by Verhoeven with his longtime biographer Rob van

As a way of promoting the book
Verhoeven presented a film after his own heart – Monty Python’s
Life of Brian
. Watching it in this context, Brian comes
across less as a comedy/satire and more like something akin to Flesh + Blood. The result isn’t so much an
indictment of religion itself, but the religious.

20 pages in, Verhoeven’s book is a
fascinating read – a dense, heavily researched director’s
commentary to the New Testament. You can tell he really has a deep respect for Jesus the Man.  In the video (shot in less than astounding
Shaky-Flip-Cam-o-Rama from the second row of Theater 1 at the IFC Center in New York City) he opens up about his
research, his upbringing and even what happened with Crusade. It’s
almost 45 minutes, so block some time out for this one.