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It’s been more than two years since John Turturro first revealed his desire to revisit the world of Jesus, the purple-clad, sex offending ten-pin bowler whose five-minute turn in the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski became some of the 1998 cult comedy’s most iconic scenes.
Since then, despite the clamoring of fans, a Jesus spinoff has appeared to look unlikely, with even Joel Coen earlier this year saying that he didn’t the project was going to happen.
But in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Friday, Turturro implied that the idea wasn’t quite in the gutter.
“It’s a very complicated legal situation,” he said, adding that his lawyer was “yelling” at him to not discuss the matter. “Until things are all signed, you can’t really talk about it. But we’ll see.”
Without his lawyer in the room, however, Turturro did say that the Coens would be involved, but not as directors.
“This would be something they would support with me,” he said.
The complicated legal situation may revolve around the fact that The Big Lebowski‘s production house, Polygram, no longer exists. But when it comes to Jesus himself, Turturro said he was actually his creation.
“That character was actually based on a play I had done many years before that, a Spanish play I did at the public theater,. It’s a character I invented,” he said. “If you ever tell anything to Joel or Ethan, they basically steal it from you!”
Although Turturro gave no hint at a possible timeframe, he did indicate that he had been practicing for the role.
“I can tell you I’ve been bowling,” he said. “I’ve been bowling a lot, and I’m getting better!”
The actor was speaking at the press junket for The Night Of, HBO’s upcoming New York crime mini-series from Steven Zaillian (the acclaimed Oscar-winning scriptwriter’s first TV project), in which he plays John Stone, an unorthodox ambulance-chasing attorney who picks up the case of Naz, a young Pakistani-American college student (Rogue One‘s Riz Ahmed) accused of murder.
More than seven years in the making, The Night Of initially had James Gandolfini playing Stone (the late actor is still listed as exec producer), with a pilot episode shot four years ago, before his death.
Although Gandolfini appeared in only one scene in the pilot, Turturro admitted he was initially reluctant to watch it.
“He was a close friend of mine, he was the lead in my movie, Romance & Cigarettes,” he said. “I’ve known him for many years.”
But Turturro did eventually see the pilot, and even used Gandolfini as an inspiration.
“Of course, I watched it with one eye closed. But he had just dipped his toe in. And you’re very different anyway, it’s not like I had to erase anything he did. I just sort of kept it in my pocket. It was another thing that you can use to spur you on. So I did think about him, as my friend.”
The actor also revealed that he looking to work on his own TV project, having optioned the rights to Susan Sheehan’s 1983 Pulitzer winning non-fiction book Is There No Place On Earth For Me?, recounting the lonely, harrowing life of a woman who is a diagnosed schizophrenic.
“I love the long form, and I love to see if I could turn this beautiful book into a four or five-hour thing,” he said.
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