Director Chris Columbus, whose latest picture is religious film The Young Messiah, was drawn to the project by the idea of tackling something new.

Chris Columbus On The Young Messiah

“We never really dealt with this particular time in Jesus’s life,” Columbus, who produced The Young Messiah, told uInterview. “You’re dealing with a seven-year-old boy who’s coming to terms with his own powers and special abilities, yet he’s still a child. And, how do his parents help him deal with that. I thought that was fascinating.”

Columbus was introduced to Anne Rice‘s book Christ The Lord by director and writer Cyrus Nowrasteh, and was immediately compelled to bring the story of the young Jesus’s life to the big screen.

“It just felt like something people have never seen before,” Columbus explained. “For me, it was an exciting time to deal with on screen because, again, you’re always trying to find something that hasn’t been done before. This has not been done before.”

Putting the film together, Columbus and his team made an effort to involve members of the religious community, including scholars and historians, and someone from the Vatican. Though the movie depicts a time in Jesus’s life that’s largely absent from the Bible, the goal was to hew as close to religious history as possible. Another hurdle, of course, was finding the right actor to portray Jesus.

Columbus, who had tremendous success casting young actors in Home Alone and Harry Potter, went about the process of finding his latest young star with relative ease. Adam Greaves-Neal, according to the seasoned filmmaker, was an obvious decision.

“I know the drill when it comes to looking at thousands and thousands of videotapes and trying to find the right kid,” said Columbus. “With Adam, we found a kid who could actually do an entire scene, and he lost himself in the scene, he embodied that character. I’ve never seen that in an actor that young. I was really impressed. He had this photogenic sort of haunted quality, the camera loved him so that was an easy choice.”

In addition to Home Alone and Harry Potter, Columbus has directed such well-known pictures as Mrs. Doubtfire, Nine Months and Stepmom, and has written screenplays for The Goonies, Heartbreak Hotel and Christmas with the Kranks. For Columbus, one of the most important things to get right about a movie is to ensure that it’s timeless. Will The Young Messiah be a movie to stand the test of time? Columbus certainly hopes so.

“The [movies] that you do love, you know, there’s a special place because you make these movies in the hope that they’ll be timeless,” said Columbus. “I mean, that was always kind of my mantra as a writer and as a director. […] I thought ahead in 25 years or 30 years, when people are watching them on TV, I want them to feel as if they were made yesterday.”

The Young Messiah is currently in theaters.

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Q: How is the film different from other stories about Jesus? -

We never really dealt with this particular time in Jesus’ life, so you’re dealing with a seven year old boy who’s coming to terms with his own powers and special abilities, yet he’s still a child. And, how do his parents help him deal with that? I thought that was fascinating.

Q: What made you want to make this film? -

It started with a book. The book was a bestseller by Anne Rice, the book was called Christ The Lord. It was brought to us by the director and writer Cyrus Nowrasteh. We looked at the book, we fell in love with the story and we knew we had to tell this story. It just felt like something people have never seen before. For me, it was an exciting time to deal with on screen because, again, you’re always trying to find something that hasn’t been done before. This has not been done before.

Q: What made Adam Greaves-Neal the perfect Jesus? -

You know I’ve cast kids in the past; I’ve cast kids in Harry Potter, and Home Alone, so I know the drill when it comes to looking at thousands and thousands of videotapes and trying to find the right kid. With Adam ,we found a kid who could actually do an entire scene, and he lost himself in the scene, he embodied that character. I’ve never seen that in an actor that young. I was really impressed. He had this photogenic sort of haunted quality, the camera loved him so that was an easy choice.

Q: Why do you think it is hard to make religious films in Hollywood? -

I don’t know. It’s interesting, in this particular film we knew we were dealing with a section of Jesus’ life that’s not dealt with in the scriptures, so we surrounded ourselves with a team of religious historians and also someone from the Vatican. So there were no missteps along the way, and as a result of that, we’ve gotten these rave reviews from all of the religious leaders across the country who are supporting the film and are in love with the film. It’s tough to just brand something a religious film. It’s just a great story and that’s why we wanted to make the movie.

Q: Among your films, which one is your favorite? -

The ones that you do love, you know, there’s a special place because you make these movies in the hope that they’ll be timeless. I mean, that was always kind of my mantra as a writer and as a director. I always wanted movies, even when I was writing movies like Gremlins and The Goonies, and then getting into Adventures in Babysitting and Home Alone, you wanted those movies to feel sort of timeless. I thought ahead in 25 years or 30 years, when people are watching them on TV, I want them to feel as if they were made yesterday. Some of the clothes are gonna be dated and that sort of thing, but at the same time I wanted them to still feel fresh. So that was very important to me. No one favorite, no. Most of them favorites for different reasons. I’ve never, I don’t tend to go look back a lot. I really wanna move forward. I feel I’m about halfway through my career. Which is a long career I guess, if I go another 30 years. But, it depends on how I’ll be doing when I’m 80 something. But, for me it’s really important that I look ahead and don’t look back.