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SINGAPORE – Julia Roberts plays God, or at least archangel Gabriel, by using her star power to bring together an immaculate conception for indie pic Jesus Henry Christ.
The comedy, starring Michael Sheen, Toni Collette and 13-year-old Jason Spevack (Sunshine Cleaning), is directed by Korean American Dennis Lee and produced by Singaporean Sukee Chew, who returns to her birth place with helmer Lee and star Spevack to premiere their film at ScreenSingapore.
The superstar actress, whose onscreen presence is felt at the event in closing film Larry Crowne, written by Nia Vardalos and Tom Hanks, directed, and co-starring Hanks. Director Dennis Lee described Jesus Henry Christ as a modern day immaculate conception and Christ parable about a test tube baby’s quest to find his genetic father, at her Red Om Films.
Producer Chew and director Lee praised Roberts, with whom the pair worked on their previous film, Fireflies in the Garden, for her hands-on approach. “Julia got us the financing of the movie. I’ve worked with people who’d come on board and say I want to do this or that, but they don’t really do anything. But in Julia’s case, she picked up the phone, she made calls, she pushed the financier,” said Chew.
The film was a Moder family affair of sorts, on which Roberts’s husband Danny Moder was the cinematographer. Moder, Lee and Chew worked together also on Fireflies in the Garden.
“Once you find somebody that you can creatively collaborate with, and that you enjoy working with… It’s hard to make a movie. And you’re there with each other for months. So you want to be with people that you trust. You want to be with people who are talented and creative and also just collaborative. I’ve told this to Danny and to production designer Rob Pearson, that as far as my career goes, I would just want to be able to work together, always. It’s just that kind of trust and shorthand,” said Lee.
Stars Sheen and Collette took a shine to the material then drastic pay cuts for the indie film, which took 23 days to film in Canada, chosen for its tax incentive. “The money that Michael and Toni was paid for Jesus Henry Christ, they would’ve taken that money and buy a Honda Civic in the States,” noted director Lee.
Lee will next direct a Maggie Q-starring biopic for Chew’s new production outfit, COCreative, set up with talent manager and fellow Singaporean Andrew Ooi.
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