Why is Hollywood returning to The Bible?

Why is Hollywood returning to The BibleThe flood of adapted screenplays finding their way onto our screens shows no sign of slowing down any time soon; as the audience’s familiarity with the source material, coupled with the increased ease of scripting, casting and promotion, help big movie studios to make a fast buck at a low risk.

However, the most curious phenomenon set to return in the coming years takes an even greater leap back through the history of cinema, and that of civilisation itself. Several big name directors and actors are currently attempting to push through projects based on the most bankable source material of them all – The Bible.

Earlier this year, The History Channel’s 10-part miniseries The Bible attracted the largest American cable television audience so far this year. Huge ratings were unsurprising given that the 76 per cent of the American population identify as Christian, and the 31 per cent believe that The Bible is the actual and literal word of God.

Biblical stories have consistently re-emerged throughout the history of cinema. Flamboyant filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille’s epics such as Samson And Delilah and The Ten Commandments were wildly successful during The Golden Age, as they applied the director’s huge showmanship to the miracles, natural disasters and great battles of The Old Testament.

New Testament films have required more imagination to succeed at the box office, as the stories contain fewer big, cinematic set pieces. The Greatest Story Ever Told, a four-hour epic presenting the life of Jesus Christ, was critically panned and flopped. Yet, the more controversial New Testament films such as The Gospel According To St. Matthew and The Last Temptation Of Christ fared much better by presenting a more human and personal Jesus.

The Seventies saw a move in the opposite direction, as the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and the hilariously satirical comedy Life Of Brian stylised the New Testament narrative and proved popular enough to stand the test of time, whilst ruffling the feathers of religious conservatives. More recently, Mel Gibson’s ultraviolent The Passion Of The Christ returned $600 million, making it the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever released in the US, and the highest-grossing independent film of all time. Looking ahead, there are several major Bible projects currently going through different stages of production.

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is set for release in March 2014, with the director referring to it as the story of “the first environmentalist”. The film will star Russell Crowe as master and commander of the Ark alongside Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone.

Ridley Scott is currently set to direct Exodus, a movie exploring Moses’ relationship with Rameses II, with Christian Bale playing Moses. In true Hollywood style, a similar movie is simultaneously in the works. Gods And Kings was originally set to be helmed by Steven Spielberg, who described the movie as a “Braveheart-ish version of the Moses story”, but shot with the gritty style of Saving Private Ryan. However, Spielberg’s name is not set in stone due to his commitment to upcoming project Robopocalypse, and Life Of Pi director Ang Lee is instead interested in taking over directorial duties.

Paul Verhoeven, the director of Starship Troopers and Total Recall, is adapting his book Jesus Of Nazareth for the big screen with help from Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary. Verhoeven’s take on the life of Jesus Christ discounts all the miracle stories of the New Testament, including the Immaculate Conception, and instead suggests that Mary was raped by a Roman soldier. Verhoeven wishes for the film to forgo mythical storytelling and instead focus on Jesus’ message as “a person who was completely innovative in the field of ethics”.

Will Smith is also looking at directing his first feature film. The After Earth actor is believed to be attached to the movie The Redemption Of Cain, a re-imagining of the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel, but with “a vampiric twist”, due for release in summer 2015. Then there is Goliath, an entire film based around the eponymous giant’s battle against the foretold king of the Israelites. Early reports suggest that Twilight star Taylor Lautner is being lined up to play King David, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being courted to appear as Goliath, whilst Scott Derrickson (Sinister) has been announced to direct.

There are also a couple of biopics in the pipeline for The New Testament’s supporting characters. Brad Pitt is in talks to star in a film based on the early life of Pontius Pilate. Whilst Sir Ben Kingsley will be appearing as King Herod in the Virgin Mary biopic, Mary Mother Of Christ – the official prequel to Mel Gibson’s The Passion.

Gibson himself is not attached to the prequel, as he has been trying to get a project off the ground based on Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee. Luckily, the chances of the actor/director managing to oversee a movie based on the foundation of Hannukkah remain slim, given the accusations of blatant antisemitism levelled at The Passion. Strangely, the pulp book series Left Behind is also set for a big screen remake, starring Nicholas Cage. Although not based directly on The Bible, the story explores what happens to the world after the sudden arrival of The Rapture removes every member of the Christian faith from the planet Earth.

The sudden interest in movies aimed at Judeo-Christian audiences is perhaps unsurprising given the English-speaking world’s familiarity with many of The Bible’s stories, and the book’s popularity amongst many people of different genders and generations.

Any source material with such a large, diverse and dedicated fan base (and one that doesn’t require royalties being paid to the writers) is begging to be explored. Moreover, films that attempt to retell religious stories tend to ride in on tides of publicity. Traditionally, they are met with outrage amongst the more conservative and fundamentalist members of religious communities who protest against blasphemy. Such debate helps to propel such films onto the front pages and make them essential viewing for anyone who wants to get involved in the debate, or heard about the movie during their Sunday sermon.

The success or failure of the coming wave of Bible films remains to be seen, yet a look back through history would suggest that spectacle, originality and controversy are the keys to a successful Christian movie – whilst too rigid an adherence to ‘the good book’ is likely to prove unremarkable.

Ten house buyers ‘chasing’ every property for sale

There are nearly 10 buyers chasing every property for sale, despite a jump in the number of homes on the market, research showed today.

10 property for sale chasing by agents

The number of properties listed with estate agents rose by more than 4 per cent in August, compared with the same month of 2013, as homeowners looked to cash in on recent house price gains.

At the same time, the number of potential buyers fell by 5.5 per cent, according to estate agents haart.

The group said the figures suggested the property market was rebalancing following a year of high demand and low supply.

But despite the fall in people looking to buy and the rise in homes for sale, the market remained highly competitive, with 9.5 potential buyers chasing every property.

The increase in supply helped to boost sales levels, with transactions rising by nearly 9 per cent year-on-year.

property for sale-Paul SmithPaul Smith, chief executive of haart, said: “The property market is currently recalibrating as our data shows, with an easing of demand as new buyer registrations across the UK decrease 5.5 per cent annually, in contrast to the uplift in homeowners looking to sell.

“Despite this influx of stock the market remains competitive with an average 9.5 buyers registering interest in every new home that comes to market, which is the driver behind property price growth.”

He added: “This gradual return to normality should now dispel fears about property bubbles – which we have always dismissed as hype.”

The group said house prices had risen by 8.9 per cent in the year to the end of August, to stand at an average of £206,578.

But the typical price paid by a first time buyer actually dipped slightly during August, dropping to £153,967, 1 per cent lower than in July.

London continued to be the main driver of growth, with prices storming ahead by 23.6 per cent year-on-year in the capital to stand at £494,026.

Competition for property was most intense in London, with 15.7 potential buyers chasing every home on the market, despite a 27 per cent jump in supply.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England reported that housing market activity had stabilised at lower transaction levels, after dipping earlier in the year following the introduction of tougher lending criteria under the Mortgage Market Review.

In its Agents’ Summary of Business Conditions Report, it said the slowdown had been particularly marked in Central London, where the appreciation of sterling had deterred some foreign buyers.

It added that house price growth was also slowing, particularly in areas of the country that had seen significant gains, with estate agents saying this reflected a more balanced market, as supply increased.

The Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee also struck a more dovish tome in its September meeting, with members suggesting Britain’s recovery may slow in the fourth quarter, while risks from the problems in the Eurozone have increased.

Two members continued to vote for a rate hike, but they failed to persuade any other members of the committee that a rise in the official cost of borrowing was necessary.

Most economists expect the Bank Rate to be increased from its record low of 0.5 per cent during the first quarter of 2015.

Losing Everything.

Most tenants are itinerant; inadvertent, perpetual nomads, moving from one home to the next, living the life kinetic, but with all the restless, roaming energy travels sideways and backwards, seldom does this endless journey progress forwards or upwards.

Some renters do enjoy moving, but these optimists are a rarity. When an assured short-term tenancy (accursed short-stay travesty) usually lasts for just six months (twelve if you’re lucky) and is then rolled over if not fully renewed or ended, tenants generally have a maximum of four months in which to breathe before they could face being kicked out with two months notice. This precarious, fractured security is more than simply unsettling. It’s also costly, with the regular hiring of vans, storage to find, upfront deposits, the infamous fees to letting agents and rent in advance to find.

Other costs are emotional but they also hit hard over time, especially the cost of replacing lost belongings after yet another move.

Such losses can be accidental. I once mislaid a bag of beloved clothes including a new dressing gown when I moved. To maximise profit and to save me money, the removal firm split their truck space between several people, and stuff was mixed up, irretrievably. I only lost stuff – I did not gain.

It’s a distracting messy process, this relocation conveyor belt, no matter how hard you try to be organised. Perhaps worst of all is leaving stuff with friends to be looked after informally, assuming they will respect the value of what you own.

A friend told me how she lost everything (literally – everything) after travelling to the States for a temporary but amazing opportunity. In the meantime, her now former friends moved out and casually left her worldly goods behind, without a care. No insurance, no payback, no possessions and a series if wrecked friendships.

Storage can be expensive for those on no/low pay. Leaving baggage with family or in the attic of stable friends is inherently risky. Some other friends have had property damaged in floods, fire and break-ins.

Nobody escape the curse. The artist Marc Chagall lost all his early work when he left it with a friend in Paris during WW1. His paintings later appeared on the open market…

Like many renters, I operate a triage system for possessions: absolute essentials are taken with me when travelling. Valuables (if only to me) are left in official storage centres – costly, but worth it. I keep possessions to a minimum, but things like precious art works, made by friends are irreplaceable.

Mass made household goods are cheap to acquire, but dear to replace when lost in bulk. Bin bags burst during the move, with explosions of underwear veering across motorways. Soggy cardboard boxes cave in and smash all your crockery onto the pavement. Overburdened suitcases burst.

I’ve been told, callously to shrug off the loss. It’s just ‘stuff.’ It’s only ‘things’ – nothing more than ‘possessions.’ But to lose everything you own, including winter clothes or precious photos never stops hurting.

International investors are big spenders in Scotland

As a global tourist destination, Scotland has long attracted international interest from holidaymakers. But Caledonia has more to offer than breathtaking scenery and whisky. International interest in the country’s commercial property market is on the up.

International investors are big spenders in Scotland

Savills research shows the international market in 2015, year to date, accounts for 40 per cent of all £10 million plus transactions in Scotland, with buyers from Holland, Singapore, South Africa, US, Spain and Middle East spending more than £400 million.

This marks a significant increase in international interest since 2005 when non-domestic buyers accounted for only 6 per cent of the market.

The opportunist US-based buyers are the most prevalent, attracted to Scotland’s better quality, and higher yielding product in the secondary market, and accounting for 40 per cent of all international sales. Key deals include the purchase of Glasgow’s Granite House for £26.8 million by Ambassador Group working with New York-based Fortress Investment Group, and Benson Elliot’s circa £15.4 million acquisition of 150 St Vincent Street. There’s also a growing interest from Shariah funds.

The growth in international buyers has largely replaced the number of debt- backed and Irish investors in Scotland, who made up 58 per cent of the market in 2005 fuelled by money from high street/retail banks.

And why the growth? By and large because Scotland’s investment and development opportunities appear undervalued relative to similar stock in other UK regional markets.

Further information

Contact Savills UK Commercial Investment.

Dos and don’ts of being a landlord

Dos and don’tsManaging a residential lettings property means covering all the bases – a combination of common sense, practical organisation and using a letting agent who signs up to the standards of a professional body such as ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents).

Alongside this there are a range of basic do’s and don’ts; ARLA President, Peter Savage, highlights these below.

Notify your mortgage and insurance providers

Speak to your lender about your mortgage terms. Letting a property requires a different form of mortgage to owner-occupation and the same applies to insurance so discuss the change with your provider as buildings and contents may not be covered. It is also worth taking out insurance to protect against a tenant defaulting on rent.

Sign up to Deposit Protection

It has been a legal requirement for Assured Shorthold Tenancy deposits to be protected by a government backed scheme since 2007. For more information, visit our page Deposit Protection or go to the Communities and Local Government website.

The pros and cons of furnishings

A furnished property can be let at a higher monthly rental however if the furnishings are second-hand or ‘leftover’ it can deter prospective tenants. You also need to consider whether everything meets Furniture and Furnishing Regulations.

Gas Safety

Pipework, appliances and flues must be maintained in safe condition. Gas appliances should be serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If these are not available it is recommended that they are serviced annually unless advised otherwise by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

Electrical Equipment

There are also regulations governing the installation of electrical equipment in rental properties – ensure that these are being followed and that any equipment in the property is regularly tested, as you will need to prove your property is safe.


Enlisting a managing agent to oversee the property can help you to overcome all of these hurdles, especially if you are moving away from the area. At the very least work with a lettings agent to find your tenant as this helps to make the process smoother and can ensure that your tenants have undergone checks. Dos and don’ts Peter-savageSelect the agent carefully, always use a professional agent (such as ARLA members) to ensure client money protection thereby securing both your money – and that of your tenants’ – and access to a redress scheme should it be required.

Step back

Finally, when making decisions about letting out your home, try to remember that you are handing it over and hopefully creating an income stream. It may have been your home or that of someone else in the family but you now need to allow someone else to make their home in it me for someone else and, hopefully, an income stream for you.  The chances are that accidental damage or wear-and-tearwillhappen, and tenantswillcomplain – so try and keep a clear, detached head when dealing with those kinds of issues, and don’t take it personally.