To date, The Passion of the Christ - Mel Gibson's ultra-violent 2004 retelling of the Crucifixion story - remains the highest-earning independently produced movie of all time, even though today the release is chiefly remembered for the explosive accusations from prominent Jewish leaders that the film's presentation of the story was anti-semitic in its recounting of events.
Most industry-watchers had long since figured that a follow-up was unlikely in the wake of said controversy and the post-Passion collapse of Gibson's Hollywood leading-man stature following a string of flops and disturbing public incidents - one of which involved an anti-semitic tirade directed at a police officer. However, rumors had recently begun to circulate that a sequel might be back on, and now screenwriter Randall Wallace has confirmed that development is indeed underway.
THR is reporting rumors of a renewed push to film a sequel that would presumably focus on the Resurrection of Christ, which Christians believe took place three days following the Crucifixion. The rumors began to crop up in May after Gibson was a surprise graduation day guest at Liberty University - a private Christian-Conservative college founded by the late pastor and political-activist Jerry Falwell. There, Gibson treated graduates to an early screening of his upcoming World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge, a biopic of the first U.S. soldier to receive the Medal of Honor as a conscientious-objector, which was written by the director's Passion and Braveheart collaborator Wallace.
The original Passion hit theaters in 2004 amid multiple firestorms of public outrage, as prominent cultural leaders condemned the film for its depiction of Jewish complicity in the Crucifixion and also for its extreme graphic violence while many conservative religious figures supported the film and urged followers to "send a message" to the major Hollywood studios who had passed on backing the project (indie outlet Newmarket eventually took it). While the film was financially successful, reviews were decidedly mixed and the public perception of Gibson changed dramatically shortly thereafter.
Supposedly, Gibson expressed interest in a sequel when asked by several attendees. Contacted by THR, Wallace "reluctantly" confirmed that the two men have been seriously developing a screenplay for the potential sequel after renewing interest during the production of Hacksaw Ridge:
"I always wanted to tell this story. The Passion is the beginning and there's a lot more story to tell. ... The evangelical community considers The Passion the biggest movie ever out of Hollywood, and they kept telling us that they think a sequel will be even bigger."
Despite Passion's controversy, Wallace has continued to work steadily in "faith-based" studio fare, having written and directed the Sony release Heaven Is For Real in 2014. Representatives for Gibson reportedly declined to comment on the matter. Gibson will next be seen in the French-produced action feature Blood Father as a tattoo-artist fighting to defend his estranged daughter from a drug cartel.
We’ll keep you updated on the Passion of the Christ sequel as more information becomes available.