"Son of God," which sees "The Bible" actor Diogo Morgado reprising his role as Jesus, is the first feature film produced by Roma Downey and husband Mark Burnett, who praised the churches and their leaders who supported their efforts.
"The Bible," the couple's HISTORY channel miniseries, received record ratings and premiered around the same time last year. Downey also starred in the project as Mary and reprises her role in "Son of God," a standalone film. She and Burnett, her husband of some six years who is also the executive producer of the CBS show "Survivor," are also working on a sequel miniseries, titled "A.D.," which will air on NBC in 2015.
Downey and Burnett talked to OTRC.com about "Son of God" ahead of the film's release. Check out 5 highlights.
1. On support from churches ...
MARK BURNETT: "We've never made a movie before. It's the first one we've made, so we don't have experience and all of the churches that are working with us on this have been with us for a lot of years, since the very beginning of the idea. And so, they've all become very connected to the movie 'Son of God' and they're just obviously thrilled to see, in community with their churches, and so, it's been a great pleasure. We've been traveling the country on this movie for the last five months and we're very good friends with a lot of the big church leaders."
ROMA DOWNEY: "It's been exciting and encouraging because the reach has gone out across denominations and it seems to be bring people together. There's been such enthusiasm and such support. We know that the movie is good ... it's a big, epic story and it's told well. The music is fantastic -- the Hans Zimmer score, the special effects by the Oscar-winning team from 'Gladiator,' so it plays out beautifully on the big screen."
2. "Beautiful" Diogo Morgado helped inspire movie
MARK BURNETT: "... when Roma saw Diogo Morgado, the beautiful Portuguese actor who plays Jesus on the screen, in Morocco, as we were shooting, Roma said, 'Mark, this should be a big feature film, more than a TV show.' So we started working on the feature film version all that time ago and in fact, had the first cuts of the film done before the series. And this plays so well on the big film screen in community. It comes out on 3,000 screens."
3. The best way to watch "Son of God" ...
MARK BURNETT: "There's even some theater takeovers where let's say you have a megaplex and there's 20 screens. All 20 screens will be showing at the same time, 'Son of God,' 'Son of God,' 'Son of God,' 'Son of God,' which is maybe the first time that's ever happened. But this is a nation under God, one nation under God, and there's a huge church community in America and I think it's a great way to see this brand-new, 2014 story of Jesus on the big screen in community, with your community."
4. "Son of God" - a "labor of love" and a "blessing"
ROMA DOWNEY: "This has been a labor of love for us, been a passion for us. To get to do this, to get to do what we love to do, to combine it with what we believe and to get to do it together as a husband and wife, it's been a blessing. It's also been great fun for us."
5. "Son of God" to encourage religious conversation?
ROMA DOWNEY: "I don't know that we could have dared to dream this big. We also don't know what's going to happen. We just know that we made a beautiful movie, that it has the potential to touch people's hearts. We made it PG-13 because we're hoping that families will be able to come together. It's a great movie to see with your whole family and then maybe start a bigger conversation afterward."
Reporting by Cari Skillman of KABC Television, which produces the nationally syndicated entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).