Judging from commentary at Christian websites, the faithful are optimistic that Fox’s Exodus: Gods and Kings will be a bit more reverent than was Paramount’s Noah. Though a quote that began making the rounds this week from Christian Bale, who plays Moses in the film, has thrown some water on that notion.
“I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life,” Bale said about Moses in front of a group of international reporters last month at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles.
See more Hollywood’s 100 Favorite Films
Christianity Today was the first to report on the comments in a story published online Tuesday, and bloggers and others, many of whom had been cautiously enthusiastic about the movie, have been digesting them ever since.
Film critic Peter Chattaway at multi-faith website Patheos.com, for example, seems troubled because Bale “speculates about what was going on inside Moses’ head.” He’s also bothered because director Ridley Scott told Entertainment Weekly that it’s not Moses or God who will part the Red Sea, but that it will be caused by an earthquake.
Faith Driven Consumer, an organization that raised a stink just prior to the opening of Noah, also is disturbed by Bale’s remarks, though founder Chris Stone has yet to pass them along to the group’s followers, which he says numbers in millions via email lists and social media.
The group is also famous for organizing a campaign to keep Duck Dynasty on the air after star Phil Robertson made disparaging remarks about homosexuality, and now it has conducted a scientific poll about Exodus that the organization shared with Scott Free Prods. The poll indicated that 74 percent of Americans were likely to see the film if it was biblically accurate but that 68 percent were unlikely to see it if it was inaccurate.
“It’s our sincerest hope that this movie resonates with our community, so we sent them the results of our poll,” Stone said. “Their response was, ‘we don’t need to have any further conversation.’”
Fox declined comment for this report.
Just before Noah opened, Stone’s group sent missives to Christians nationwide that the movie “appears to have replaced the Bible’s central point of God’s judgment on man’s inherent sin with a story focused on a contemporary environmental theme.” Because of the controversy that swirled around Noah, Stone said he was surprised to see that Bale called Moses “schizophrenic” and “barbaric” ahead of the film’s opening on Dec. 12.
“There’s nothing in the biblical history that supports that,” he said. “It’s an indication that there will be a tremendous disconnect between Bale’s interpretation and the expectations of the market.”
Noah was made for $125 million and earned $352 million worldwide, but Stone says it left a lot of money on the table by insulting those who take the Bible seriously.
See more 35 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Movies
“Like we said with Noah, they’ve got the right to do whatever they want with their movie, but a lot of people just said, ‘That’s not my story,’ and they stayed away,” Stone says. “We can see the same thing happening with Exodus.”
Another influential Christian writer, Brian Godawa, who leaked elements of the Noah script online before the movie was finished, also plans to weigh in on Bale’s comments at his blog, though he’s still crafting his response.
“It’s accurate to portray Moses as an imperfect hero, so Christians won’t take issue with that,” he said. “But to be so extreme as to call him one of the most barbaric people in history, that sounds like he’s going out of his way to distance himself from the very people you’d think he wants to appeal to. It tells me that he’s worried about Hollywood peer approval while looking down on the public, because he certainly doesn’t want to be associated with the religious or the far right.”
Oct. 26, 9:27 a.m. An earlier version of this story misstated the results of the poll. THR regrets the error.