Jeymes Samuel is following up his hit western flick The Harder They Fall with the rise and fall of Jesus Christ.
In his second feature, The Book of Clarence, Samuels tackles the story of Jesus Christ with a splashy Biblical-era film, reminiscent of Ben Hur and The Ten Commandment, but instead featuring an all-black cast.
HipHollywood sat down with the British-born writer-director who told us the film has been in the making some 20 years.
“The Book of Clarence has been in the making since like, 2004, 2005,” he explained. “I’ve wanted to tell that story ever since I was a child. Watching movies like Quo Vadis, Ben Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and loving those movies … but the movies didn’t look anything like my environment or any of the people I grew up with.”
Samuels reunited with LaKeith Stanfield, who also starred in The Harder They Fall, to take on the lead role of Clarence.
“I knew it was time to make it the day I met Lakeith Stanfield,” said Samuels. “When you have a Lakeith Stanfield, it just makes everything make sense. It makes everything make sense. He embraces all the scenes.”
Samuels puts a spin on the story of Jesus as told in the Gospels, adding elements of satire, comedy, music and dance. In the film, Stanfield plays a street hustler who dreams up schemes to get rich quick including masquerading as the 13th apostle to pay off his debts. When that fails he decides to pretend to be a messiah and get paid for his so-called tricks ultimately discovering that the redemptive power of belief may be his only way out.
“I do think it’s a real big moment, but it’s a big moment that is also just fun and funny and feels cool and, like, action sequences and dances and fights and love and strife and togetherness,” said Stanfield. “There’s literally everything here, and you don’t ever see that in any film. So shouts out to Jeymes. He created a new word to describe what it is he does. It’s called Jeymes.”
Stanfield is also joined by an all-star cast including R.J. Cyler, James McAvoy, Anna Diop, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, David Oyelowo and a host of notable British actors like Omar Sy and Michael Ward.
“We have not seen ourselves depicted in this world and at this scale, with this budget, frankly, and with the kind of resources that this film, rightfully so, was backed with,” said Diop of working on the film. “It was and is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a no brainer.”
The Book of Clarence is in theaters January 12.
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