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Garth Davis on Recreating Jerusalem in Southern Italy for 'Mary Magdalene'

Picture of Cassam Looch
Film Editor
Updated: 13 March 2018
Following on from the huge success of Lion (2016), director Garth Davis thought he was looking for a break. Instead, as we found out, he took on the challenge of bringing to life the story of one of the most influential historical figures of all-time to the big screen.

When we spoke to Davis at the Corinthia Hotel in London recently, the Australian director spoke of why he decided to make a film about Mary Magdalene. Rooney Mara portrays Magdalene opposite Joaquin Phoenix who portrays Jesus.

Davis spoke of how the reputation of Magdalene has been recounted over the years preceding the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ. We also found out how The Vatican recently made a proclamation about the woman who travelled with Jesus and his Apostles according to the New Testament. The official press release describes Magdalene as the ‘apostle of the apostles’.

One story relates to the tradition of painting eggs during Easter. Magdalene is said to have attended a banquet after the death of The Messiah, holding out an egg in her hand and telling the Roman Emperor Tiberius that Christ has risen. Tiberius is said to have scoffed and said the return of Jesus was as likely as the egg in Magdalene’s hand turning red. Before the pair has finished their conversation, the egg had turned red.

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 10.51.05
Jerusalem as depicted in ‘Mary Magdalene’ | © Universal Pictures/Youtube

Wanting to avoid using green screen where possible, Davis also faced the challenge of recreating Jerusalem of the era for the screen. The unlikely, but utterly convincing solution was found in Southern Italy.

The film was shot in multiple locations including Matera in Basilicata, Gravina in Puglia, Apulia and Trapani in Sicily.

Mary Magdalene will be on general release from March 16