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The Last Temptation of Christ - "God Doesn't Like This Movie" 

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

How the Film Came to be Made

The first studio attached to Martin Scorseses film was Paramount in the early 80s.   Even then, the project was faced with protests from fundamentalist Protestant groups, which the studio attempted to handle by insisting that the project be given the temporary pre-production working title of The Passion.   This move did little to pacify the protestors, so the studio consulted a group of eminent theologians for advice.   They concluded that The Last Temptation of Christ deserved to be made despite the risks, but by then the studio had grown cold feet and, in 1983, decided to drop the project anyway.

 Scorsese turned to France for finance.   Jack Lang, the then Minister of Culture, was known to look favourably on financially supporting internationally renowned filmmakers and was also an admirer of Scorseses work.   He was interested in the project, but a wave of public protest once again intervened.   Cardinal Lustiger, the Archbishop of France, had written to President Mitterand following the release of Jean Luc Godards Je vous salue, Marie (1985) warning against the misuse of public funds for a project founded on subverting scripture.   That warning was enough to persuade the French to think again about investing in a project as potentially explosive as The Last Temptation of Christ.

 Scorsese finally found a backer for the film in 1987, when Universal accepted the project although only after the director agreed to slash its budget from $15 million to $6.5 million.

Conscious of the barrage of protest it was liable to encounter upon its release, Universal orchestrated a carefully planned distribution of the film on its opening weekend.   It played initially in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, Toronto, Montreal, and Washington, D.C cities where the studio felt it was least likely to encounter major protests.   The strategy worked partly because of the publicity already provided by protestors and the film recognised an unusually high box office return of $400,000 in its opening weekend.   This success fell off considerably however when the film was rolled out to other, less liberal, locations where public demonstrations made people less willing to see it.   Attempts by the studio to counter these protests by placing large advertisements in major newspapers emphasisng First Amendment rights met with little success.

 The film eventually broke even at the box office, making around $8 million.


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