A new potential blockbuster film about the young life of Jesus' mother Mary, backed by popular Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen, might see the U.S. government walk away with a portion of its earnings before it even gets to theaters.
"Mary, Mother of Christ" is an upcoming historical film that will retrace the life of the young, Jewish woman and is based on the blockbuster hit "Passion of the Christ." But, the U.S. government has recently filed a claim that the screenplay was obtained through an extortion plot and is seeking 15 percent of the film's profits, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Mexican businessmen Arturo Madrigal and Mauricio Sanchez Garza reportedly obtained the script for "Mary, Mother of Christ" in 2006 and resold it to Aloe Entertainment for nearly a million dollars with a clause for an additional 15 percent of the total profits of the film.
However, Garza is currently under indictment in the U.S. on federal charges for money laundering and extortion, along with his businesses partner Jorge Vazquez Sanchez. Prosecutors say that Garza and Sanchez extorted Madrigal out of his share of the film's script after his brother was kidnapped, and used the money to purchase land in San Antonio, Texas.
Due to the allegations of extortion, the federal government is reportedly now seeking to confiscate both the land and the 15 percent of the total profits of the film that would have gone to Sanchez and Vazquez.
The faith-based film will star Hollywood actors Camilla Belle as Mary, Peter O'Toole as Symeon, and Diogo Morgado as Joseph the carpenter.
"Under the reign of terror of Herod the Great and against all odds, Mary and Joseph survive as young parents in one of the most treacherous times in history," the plot summary from Aloe Entertainment reads online.
"Mary, Mother of Christ," which is currently in pre-production, is set to follow Mary from her youth to her struggles as a young mother caring for her child, Jesus, up to the age of four years old.
Popular Lakewood church Pastor Joel Osteen has signed on to serve as the executive producer to the film, which will be Osteen's first foray into film production.
"Minister Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church, the most prominent Christian Evangelical minister in the world, has signed on his first movie ever as Executive Producer with a massive marketing and promotion plan," Aloe Entertainment's website reads.
The upcoming biopic and drama movie has not yet been filmed but shooting is scheduled to take place in Italy, Jordan, and British Columbia. "Mary, Mother of Christ" is expected to be released in 2013.