Joseph Fiennes on 'Risen' movie, 'I think we got it right'

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |
Risen Movie

CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – The New Testament doesn't reveal Pilate's reaction when he learned of Jesus' resurrection, although Christians throughout the centuries have wondered what he would have done.

A new movie that hits theaters Feb. 19 surmises that Pilate likely would have ordered a region-wide search for the body of Christ, dismissing claims of the resurrection and fearing an uprising against his leadership.

The film is "Risen" (PG-13), and it follows a Roman military officer by the name of Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), an unbeliever who is tasked by Pilate to find the body before Christ's followers exploit what Pilate thinks is a hoax.

"You will track down each and every one of these disciples," Pilate orders him.

Clavius, though, finds not a lifeless body but the living Christ, forcing him to re-examine his entire worldview.

"Risen," of course, is biblical fiction, but it's a story its creators hope will encourage and inspire Christians in their faith, a mere five weeks prior to Easter.

Fiennes has more than 25 films to his credit but may be most well-known among the Christian audience for his portrayal of Martin Luther in the 2003 film "Luther."

The Christian Examiner spoke recently with Fiennes about "Risen." Following is a transcript, edited for clarity:

Christian Examiner: How did you get involved in this project?

Joseph Fiennes: I got a phone call saying (director) Kevin Reynolds was in Spain and would like to meet me; I was in Spain at the same time. I flew over and met him in an airport lounge, and we had at least a two-hour chat. In the end, he very kindly offered me the part. We hit it off. We spoke at length about the balance between Scripture and the fictionalized character of Clavius, which you could say is derived from certain historical characters. I think we got it right, and it seems there's an overwhelmingly positive reaction from theologians and Christian ministers from whom we sought council during filming and the editing process. I'm just a small component in that. It's like a detective story. Clavius goes on this mission, and on that mission, his conditioning and his understanding of the world as he knows it is undone, irrevocably. That was a big challenge, really, to get that believability to the character and also to remain true to Scripture and also to make it a great cinematic event.

CE: So how many years did it take to make this film?

Fiennes: I believe the actual writing process took several years, in terms of the idea and then developing the idea. For my part, the filming itself was three and a half months between Malta and Spain. With the cinematography and the locations and the casting, you really feel as you've been picked up and dropped off in this very authentic landscape. That's a huge success with the film.

CE: This is at least your second film about the history of Christianity. What attracts you to these types of faith-based films?

Fiennes: I never really look at them as faith-based. I just look at them as films which speak to me, and somehow it strikes a chord. I don't know why I gravitate toward them or them to me – if it's coincidence or if it's conscience. And I recently played Eric Liddell (in the yet-to-be-released "The Last Race"), a missionary who died in a Japanese internment camp. He was famously remembered in the film "Chariots of Fire." Maybe, if I really examined it, I am very drawn to the integrity that someone has. As soon as you raise the bar of your integrity, you are challenged, and I have great respect for those who do that and weather all the storms and remain true to their faith, remain true to their mission.

"Risen" is rated PG-13 for biblical violence and some disturbing images. Visit