Christmas release ahead for The Nativity Story on big screen

New Line Cinema will release The Nativity Story in cinemas on 1 December 2006. Production of the drama began in May, with primary location shooting in Italy and Morocco, and the film is currently in post-production.

The film’s script writer Mike Rich, a Christian, is known for his writing of Dennis Quaid’s The Rookie and Cuba Gooding’s Radio. He is the co-winner of two “Character and Morality in Entertainment Awards” for those films. His first big script sale was Finding Forrester (starring Sean Connery) which he wrote while News Director and morning news DJ for a popular FM radio station in Portland, Oregon.

Focusing on getting inside the minds and hearts of Mary and Joseph, Rich says he “felt compelled both spiritually and emotionally to tackle this subject matter. … For me, the scenes that resonated so much for me when I was writing the script were the one-on-one scenes with Mary and Joseph … I thought it was just a remarkable journey of faith.”

Concerned with the difficulty and importance of the project, he requested the prayers of his pastor and church. Given that relatively little detail is provided by the Bible on the events, he reports that the script was sent for comment to as many theologians and historians as possible, to gain accuracy and insight.

The Nativity Story includes the visit by the angel to Mary, her visit with cousin Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph’s trip to from Nazareth to Bethlehem, King Herod, the wise men, etc.

Because the actual locations of Bethlehem and Nazareth have become modernised over the years, the production decided to shoot in the village of Matera, Italy, which has been virtually unchanged for centuries, and was previously used as a location in The Passion of The Christ.

The production also travelled to Ouarzazarte, Morocco, where scenes involving Herod's palace and the Temple of Jerusalem were shot - the same location used in Gladiator and The Kingdom of Heaven.

Playing the role of Mary is Keisha Castle-Hughes (Queen Naboo in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and Paikea in Whale Rider. Oscar Isaac is Joseph, and Elizabeth is played by Shohreh Aghdashloo (the memorable wife of an Arab terrorist in TV’s 24, and Dr Kavita Rao in X-Men: The Last Stand).

Director Catherine Hardwicke is best known for her work on Thirteen (2003, writer/director), Lords of Dogtown (2005, director), and as production designer on Tom Cruises’ Vanilla Sky (2001) and George Clooney’s Three Kings (1999).

More information is available at the film’s official site: thenativitystory.com.

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