Oscar-winning producer Barrie M. Osborne is best known for fantastical films employing messianic characters, specifically "The Matrix" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Lately though, he's focusing directly on religious material rather than stories that reference those texts. Osborne is already at work on "Kingdom Come," a Biblical epic about the life of Jesus, which will be directed by "Lord of the Rings" visual effects artist Dean Wright. And now, according to The Guardian, he's planning a $150 million film about Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
Osborne's film, which will follow Muhammad's life from birth to death and His teachings, will not feature an on-screen depiction of the Prophet. The New Zealand-based producer is working with a production company out of Qatar and has employed Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to oversee the project throughout shooting. The producer told Reuters it will be "an international epic production aimed at bridging cultures. The film will educate people about the true meaning of Islam."
Currently without a title -- or screenplay, it seems -- the epic is scheduled to begin shooting in 2011, meaning it will follow Osborne's Christ biopic, "Kingdom Come," which is set to start production in February. Depending on when this is film is released, there's potential for dueling Muhummad biopics in theaters, given there's already a remake of Moustapha Akkad's "The Message," titled "Messenger of Peace," in development as well.
Making a biopic on the Prophet is quite tricky and may be a touchy subject, because many Muslims believe Islamic law forbids the visual depiction of Muhammad in any medium. Back when Akkad was making "The Message," bloody riots occurred for two days in Pakistan based solely on rumors that either Peter O'Toole or Charlton Heston would be playing the Prophet. And upon release of the film in the U.S., there was a two-day hostage crisis in Washington D.C. due to an extremist group thinking the film's star, Anthony Quinn, was portraying Muhammad (he instead plays the Prophet's uncle, the desert-warrior Hamza).
Would you be interested in learning more about Islam from an epic Muhammad biopic? Are you curious how a biopic can work without depicting its subject?