If one were to compile a list of eclectic actors, it would be hard to justify not including Joaquin Phoenix. The three-time Oscar nominee has made a career out of portraying complex and uniquely memorable characters in films like Spike Jonze’s Her, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, and James Mangold’s Walk the Line. Although he took a few years off after the failure of 2010 mockumentary I’m Still Here, Phoenix has hit the ground running with his performances since returning, and shows no sign of faltering any time soon.
That all said, Phoenix remains a man who marches to the beat of his own drum, something clearly affirmed by his latest possible project. According to Deadline, the former Johnny Cash is in talks to undertake a task that may ultimately prove to be his toughest challenge yet: playing Jesus Christ in Garth Davis’ much buzzed about upcoming film Mary Magdalene.
For those unfamiliar with the theology surrounding her, Mary Magadalene was a devoted follower of Jesus who is said to have witnessed both his crucifixion and resurrection. Some sources – both scholarly and fictional – have occasionally tried to turn Mary into Jesus’ love interest as well, although this belief is not widely held among Christians. It’s also been suggested that Mary was a reformed prostitute, but this too is a subject of debate.
Playing the titular character in Davis’ film is Rooney Mara, Phoenix’s co-star in the aforementioned Her. Mara will be far from the first to embody Magdalene on the silver screen, joining a list of notable past performers that includes names like Barbara Hersey and Monica Belluci. Then again, most of those instances were supporting roles in films depicting the life of Jesus, with the focus rarely placed squarely on Mary herself. This gives Mara an opportunity to perhaps cement herself as the quintessential movie version of Mary Magdalene.
If he takes the role, Phoenix will have a higher hill to climb to become the definitive movie version of Jesus Christ, with most seemingly giving that award to Jim Caviezel for his work in Mel Gibson’s 2004 blockbuster The Passion of the Christ. For one, Phoenix really doesn’t look all that much like the standard western depiction of Jesus, although efforts could obviously be made to alter his look and put him more in line with the norm. Secondly, Jesus only lived to his early 30s, while Phoenix himself is 41. The actor is also 10 years older than Mara, making it a bit odd that they would be contemporaries, especially since some believe that Mary might have been the older of the two.
That said, if Davis is considering casting an iconoclast like Phoenix, it’s very likely the director isn’t setting out to make a biblical story reminiscent of those found in cinemas past. Perhaps Phoenix is being eyed to play a new kind of Jesus, one possibly more suited to the actor’s idiosyncrasies. Either way, one can be certain that the man will give it his all, and do nothing less than swing for the fences with his performance.
Mary Magdalene is planned to arrive in theaters sometime in 2017.