The Young Messiah: Meet Producer Chris Columbus

The Young Messiah: Meet Producer Chris Columbus

His resume includes more than 65 films, including household names like Gremlins, Goonies, Home Alone and a few Harry Potter movies. Writer, director and producer Chris Columbus took time to talk with Risen about his most recent work, The Young Messiah, which offers a unique perspective. For our full interview with the multi-hyphenate check out the spring issue of Risen Magazine.

Risen Magazine: You’ve produced more than 30 films including some of my favorites like the Night at the Museum films, three of the Harry Potter movies, and you even got nominated for an Oscar for The Help. Why was it important to add The Young Messiah to that list?
Chris Columbus: My love of movies goes across the board of every genre. I love horror films, I love comedies, I love dramatic films. When I was approached by Cyrus Nowrasteh, who had written a couple of scripts for us, he mentioned he had a conversation with Anne Rice who wrote the book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, which Cyrus read, and he fell in love with the idea of making it into a film. We all then read the book and loved the concept of it because I had never seen anything like it. I had always wanted to do a film about Jesus and I had also felt that most of the films I had seen in Hollywood that were depictions of Jesus just felt so reverential and flat. As a kid, Jesus was a hero, because He was obviously this extremely charismatic, amazing person who could touch many people’s lives.

There is a reason He had followers. People fell in love with Him and I never really saw that personality on screen. I always wanted to make that film, but then this came along which really has nothing to do with my own desire to make a film about the life of Jesus, but I loved the concept because I had never seen this particular idea. By the time I got to the end of the script I had tears in my eyes because I was so moved by the journey, and the fact that the screenplay and the movie both really do enable people to examine their faith. That’s why I wanted to make this particular movie.

RM: The Young Messiah tells the story of seven-year-old Jesus who returns to Nazareth from Egypt with his family and discovers the truth about who He is. Having the Bible and Anne Rice’s book Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt as source material, how did you maintain accuracy while showcasing a unique perspective?
CC: I think seeing this story through the eyes of a seven-year-old Jesus is really remarkable. I’ve made a lot of movies with kids as protagonists. There is just such honesty when you find an actor who brings a real authenticity and naturalism to the role. That’s what I found this young man [Adam Greaves-Neal] had similarly to other child actors I have worked with in the past.

RM: Many know Mary and Joseph as the virgin mother and the father of the Son of God, but what the movie did well was depict them as parents raising their child. Speak to their character and how the dynamics can relate to families today?
CC: I certainly think what makes the film relatable is that we depict Mary, Joseph and Jesus as a real family, and there is a certain reality to what they were going through at the time. The more reality you see in the depiction of the Holy family – a family up against a lot of particular odds, a family with inner conflict about what is going on – the more you get into the real life drama of those situations and the more relatable it is to a viewer. For me, it’s fascinating and if as a filmmaker I can extend my hand from the screen and draw people into the world, then they are involved with the characters. I wanted the audience to feel that they were actually in this world at that time.

RM: When it comes to telling stories that resonate with so many, several of your films have kids as central characters. You directed Home Alone (1990), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Stepmom (1998) and even a couple of the Harry Potter films. Why do you find the way a child sees the world so intriguing.
CC: There is a certain magic in the first time you see anything and I guess I am just drawn to those particular stories. I don’t know why, that’s the weird thing. I wish I had a reason. [Laughter] When you read Harry Potter, or when I read the first draft of Home Alone, I was just intrigued by those particular stories. There is certain innocence to the stories, but there is also a dark quality that I love. I have to admit, I love that there is this darkness lurking behind every door at Hogwarts. I love the idea that even though Kevin is left home alone there is a declension quality of these bad guys trying to break into his house, and at some point, they are actually trying to kill him.

Those were always the best sort of family movies or children’s stories that I loved. Any soft children’s story just wasn’t interesting to me. Even Goonies is about these kids looking for this treasure, but at the same time trying to save their lives because they are being chased by really hideous criminals. I guess I respond to the realization that there is always a darkness lurking behind something that seems innocent. Even in The Young Messiah, to a certain extent, the visions of Satan are pretty dark and that is always something that drew me to biblical stories as well. There is a really heavy dark side to a lot of the stories I first learned about in school; the Old Testament particularly gets very dark. It’s an important side to telling those particular tales.

The Young Messiah opens in theatres Friday, March 11.
Go to for tickets and showtimes.


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