If you are watching Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, did you know I am responsible for a scene in the movie?
Well now, the tale goes like this:
I was living in England and Mel Gibson had completed the rough cut of the movie but was worried that he would not be able to get any distributors to take the movie. You can make a film, you see, but if you can’t get a distributor to pick it up it will never make it into the theaters.
So Mel was traveling to major cities to meet Catholics who might be interested in helping to fund the distribution of the movie. To attract them they were showing the rough cut of the film to get audience feedback and generate interest.
At the time I was writing film reviews for a Catholic weekly so I got invited, along with my friend Steve Ryan. We settled down to watch the movie in a little theater in Soho in London and the whispers were that Mel Gibson was going to be there.
And he was. He came on to the stage after the film showing and asked for our feedback.
I piped up, “I liked the way you referenced some famous Catholic art in the composition of your photography. Was that intentional?”
“Yes” he said, “I’m glad you picked it up. I wanted the film to be in the tradition of the great iconography of the Christian church. Maybe I didn’t succeed, but we tried.”
I said, “I would have liked to have seen a reference maybe to Salvador Dali’s famous suspended crucifix–in which you see Christ from above. You know that was inspired by a drawing by St John of the Cross?”
My friend Steve said, “And I would have liked to have seen some sign of God the Father’s grief at the death of his Son.”
So off we went to the suburbs and had dinner with Mel Gibson and a bunch of other people.
A year later the movie was released and my friend Steve called me, “Hey Dwight have you seen Mel’s movie?”
“No. Not yet.”
“You need to see it because our scenes are in there.”
“Yeh, you know you said you would like to see the crucifixion from above and I said I’d like to see a sign of God the Father’s grief?”
“Well Mel put those scenes in the movie.”
Sure enough. After the death of Jesus the camera seems to zoom up to the heavens and then a single drop of water–like a teardrop–falls to earth and starts the terrible storm.
Those two shots were not in the rough cut of the movie we saw in London that night.