Joaquin Phoenix in line to play Jesus in ‘Mary Magdalene’

The next logical step for Phoenix' strange and compelling career

Joaquin Phoenix is in pole position to win the role of Jesus in Garth Davis’ upcoming Mary Magdalene film, it has been reported.

Representatives for Phoenix, who has been nominated for an Oscar three times, for Gladiator, Walk the Line and The Master, are said to be in the early stages of talks over a deal which would see him play the son of God opposite Rooney Mara.

Mary Magdalene is being developed See-Saw Films, who produced The King’s Speech, in collaboration with Film4. It will centre on the eponymous Mary, one of the earliest followers of Christ, who unfairly developed a reputation as a fallen woman in the Middle Ages – a story which is unsupported by any of the four Gospels. She’s since become a semi-mythical figure in the Christian tradition, as well as a source of several conspiracy theories. She was central to the plot of the Da Vinci Code phenomenon a few years ago, in which she was said to have carried Jesus’ secret baby.

See-Saw, meanwhile, is describing the script as “an authentic and humanistic portrait of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history”.

Phoenix, who last appeared in Woody Allen’s Irrational Man, is currently working on a film called Far Bright Star, directed by Casey Affleck, which is a western about a cavalry officer in charge of a team sent to track down the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, who has to survive in the desert after his men are killed in an ambush.

Production on Mary Magdalene is due to kick off this summer, ahead of a hoped-for release in 2017.