Mohammad pic 'Messenger' being remade

Will be second English-language film of its kind

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A movie drama about the life of the Prophet Mohammad is to go into production soon, and will be only the second English-language film of its kind ever made, its producers said Monday.

"The Messenger of Peace" will be a remake of Moustapha Akkad's "The Message," a 1977 Hollywood classic starring Anthony Quinn that is often applauded by Muslims as an example of how commercial Western cinema can respect Islam.

"We have only the utmost respect for Akkad's work, but technology in cinema has advanced since the 1970s, and this latest project will employ modern film techniques in its renewal of the first film's core messages," said producer Oscar Zoghbi, who worked on the original.

Akkad, the Syrian-born executive producer of Hollywood's "Halloween" horror films, was killed in a suicide bomb attack by al-Qaida on a luxury hotel in Jordan's capital Amman in 2005.

In the original "Message," Mohammad and his companions were heard speaking off-camera but never directly shown, in accordance with Muslim conventions forbidding their visual depiction.

Portrayals of Mohammad have triggered anger in recent years. Danish cartoons of him ignited protests, some deadly, by Muslims in many countries in 2006. The offices of a British publisher were attacked in September over a novel about Mohammad's child bride.

"In the 21st century there is a real need for a film that emotionally engages audiences on the journey that led to the birth of Islam," the statement quoted the film's scriptwriter Ramsey Thomas as saying.

A spokesman for the producers said in an e-mail to Reuters that details of the funding and production of the planned film would be released "in due course."

The events of Mohammad's life took place mainly in Mecca and Medina, Islamic holy cities in modern Saudi Arabia.
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