Jesus Mini-Series Producer Lorenzo Minoli: Exclusive Interview
It was my good pleasure to talk with Emmy award winning producer Lorenzo Minoli, who produced the Jesus mini-series for CBS, currently set for its gmc premiere on April 1 at 7 pm et. He also produced the TNT Bible series, which includes Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samson & Delilah, David and the Emmy Award-winning film Joseph. (Abraham and Joseph are also included in gmc's Greatest Stories Ever Told lineup, April 1—April 8.) Lorenzo has an extensive history in the film industry and has his own film production corporation, Five Mile River Films.
In filmmaking, Lorenzo is sort of a 'Jack of all trades.' For the Bible Series he took on many of the responsibilities include determining the creative elements – such as directors, casting, writing – and coordinating the international co-production and distribution.
He takes pride in his documentaries on the former Soviet Union. Most notable was The Caravan of Columbus, a two-hour special filmed during the critical summer of 1989.
His Nicholas was shown on CBS as the kick-off movie in the network's "May Sweeps" period. It proved to be a rating success for the executive producer, finishing as the number-eight program out of 104 for the week and resulted in an Emmy nomination for Jamie Lee Curtis for Best Actress.
I found Lorenzo to be a down-to-earth kind of family guy who swims in a wealth of ideas and visions.
David: I can't tell you how much I have been looking forward to this interview.
Lorenzo: And I must say I really enjoy your Hollywood Jesus website. I found out about it through a friend in Italy.
David: Thank you. I appreciate that. Hollywood Jesus has been getting lots of email on the upcoming Jesus series on CBS. I was surprised when I read that Turner Network Television did not pick it up. They showed the entire Bible series: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and David. What happened and how did Jesus end up on CBS?
Lorenzo: It's a long story. But, I think it began during the filming of Moses when we lightly pitched Jesus to TNT.
David: And they did not respond?
Lorenzo: Well, it was not the right time for them to make the decision. We discussed the possibility with ABC. But, we could not find any common ground. And suddenly TNT was interested. "Why are you talking to ABC? We are interested," they said.
David: So, back to Turner Network Television. What happened?
Lorenzo: We had differences with the TNT vision for the Jesus series. They had had a great success with MERLIN and they wanted to do certain kinds of special effects with Jesus.
David: I heard they wanted Jesus to fly around like Merlin did. What did they want?
Lorenzo: Well let's just leave it with the fact the we had differences in our vision for this film. But, at CBS they just embraced the project. It was wonderful. You know, this has taken four years of my life.
David: It has been a labor of love for you. How long is the Jesus series?
Lorenzo: There are two versions. Both have two parts. In the European version, each part runs 100 minutes long. And the American version has been trimmed down to 82 to 83 minutes each.
David: In other words, 40 minutes have been cut out of the CBS version of the Jesus mini-series for America. When the video tape version is released, will it contain the full version?
Lorenzo: Yes, it will. You know, originally, the Italians wanted to make this a six-part movie. That would have been too long.
David: I understand that you have some other Bible films that have not been shown to the American public.
Lorenzo: We have Jeremiah the Prophet, Esther, and Solomon. Solomon is fantastic. I am very proud of it. It stars Ben Cross as Solomon and Max Van Sydow as King David. Ben Cross does a wonderful job. It's a very good film.
David: And Esther...
Lorenzo: Yes, with Louis Lombard as Esther.
David: Esther is my daughter Kathleen's favorite book in the Bible.
Lorenzo: Yes, it's a great story.
David: Are there any other films in the Bible series?
Lorenzo: Yes, Creation.
David: Creation? You mean like Adam and Eve?
Lorenzo: Exactly. It's a very visual movie. It has only one professional actor in it. It was done in a very different style than the other films. It's very beautiful, very visual.
David: I am so curious, how did the whole Bible story thing get started?
Lorenzo: It started back in 1992, in a collaboration between the Italian group Lux Vide and myself. We then we entered the international market involving BetaFilm (KirchGroup) and Turner Network Television. The "Bible Project" is now made up of many films and is the biggest television co-production in the world involving Raiuno, Turner Network Television, France2, as well as Quinta, Antena 3, MTM, BSkyB, Czech TV, ARD and NCRV.
David: I am impressed.
Lorenzo: Well, originally the Italians were thinking of 40 movies. But, you know, the Italians always think too big.
David: Will the Bible series ever be released as a total video package?
Lorenzo: Yes, I hope so. We are in negotiations with TNT to buy back the rights on the films they have.
David: Eventually, then, people will be able to purchase the whole series in a one package deal.
David: I need to ask you some other questions about the Jesus series. I understand that during the temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness, Satan appears in a modern suit.
Lorenzo: Yes, this is true. We wanted to emphasize the fact that Jesus is still with us. So we put included some contemporary elements. We have flashes of the crusades, the burning of witches, World War I, and Kosovo. For Kosovo we did a reenactment. You see, we also wanted to point out that Satan is still with us, too.
David: So the idea in the Jesus series is that the drama between Jesus and Satan continues.
Lorenzo: Exactly. We still have a choice between Good and Evil. This is what the sacrifice of Jesus is all about. And the good news is that Jesus is still with us.
David: I'll say Amen to that!
Lorenzo: By the way, David, I would be glad to comment on some of the email that comes into Hollywood Jesus concerning the Jesus series, even if some comments are not favorable.
David: That's great. Thank you. I wish you great success with the Jesus series.
Lorenzo: Thank you.
This interview originally appeared on HollywoodJesus.com. Copyright 1999 HollywoodJesus, Inc. All rights reserved. All use subject to terms and conditions of use set forth at www.hollywoodjesus.com
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