12:45pm PT by Mikey O'Connell
Nat Geo Adapting Bill O’Reilly’s 'Killing Jesus' (Exclusive)
National Geographic Channel is set to adapt Bill O’Reilly's upcoming book Killing Jesus: A History, marking the third telepic partnering of the author, the cable network and Ridley Scott's Scott Free Productions.
The news comes on the heels of the successful launch of O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln in February. The scripted adaptation, starring Billy Campbell as the 16th president and Jesse Johnson as John Wilkes Booth, pulled a record 3.4 million viewers to the cable network. Nat Geo is also in preproduction on O'Reilly's Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot.
O'Reilly, who will serve as executive producer on Killing Jesus, is writing the book with his researcher and partner Martin Dugard. Production on the film is scheduled to begin in the fall.
"I think the popularity of Bill's franchise speaks about how O'Reilly and Dugard are turning the notch up at every possible opportunity with these new accounts of history," NGC president Howard Owens tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Killing Lincoln proved our audience's response to factual drama. The audacity of these books is in the way Bill thinks and tells a story. We think it fits really well with the history of the bible, and we've had a lot of success in the religious genre."
Killing Jesus, as the title implies, follows the events leading up to the crucifixion. And the green light follows the current success of History's religion-themed miniseries The Bible, which has been pulling north of 10 million viewers every Sunday since March 3. Nat Geo's previous religious forays include 2006 special The Gospel of Judas.
All three Killing adaptations follow the November debut of SEAL Team Six, Nat Geo’s first feature film. The Weinstein Co.'s retelling of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound brought in 2.7 million viewers.
"This is the big one," O'Reilly tells THR of his latest book. "We really like working with Nat Geo and Scott Free because the B.S. component is very small. These guys are right on my wavelength. We get a good screenplay, we shoot it, and we put it on."
Killing Jesus will be published in Sept. 24 by Henry Holt and Co. O’Reilly is repped by N.S. Bienstock.