Oprah, Forrest Whitaker, Idris Elba to Star in Controversial 'Shack' Movie

A film about the bestselling 2008 book The Shack will reportedly be directed by Forest Whitaker and may star British actor Idris Elba and television personality Oprah.

Actors Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker at the 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 18, 2014.
Actors Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker at the 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 18, 2014. | (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)

In January, Deadline first reported that the Academy Award winner Whitaker, who starred in the 2013 film The Butler, was in talks to direct William Paul Young's book. It also suggested that Whitaker could be a supporting character in the story that chronicles a man grieving the kidnapping and brutal murder of his seven-year-old daughter, who encounters God in the shed where his child died.

Earlier this week, The Tracking Board reported that Elba, who stars in the television series Luther and was recently seen in Thor: The Dark World and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom could be cast as the lead. It did not specify which part Oprah could be given, although the main character, Mackenzie Allen Phillips, encounters three versions of God while in the shed, one of them Papa, an African-American woman.

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The two other members of the Trinity who Phillips meets are Jesus, a Jewish Carpenter, and Sarayu, a woman of unclear Asian descent whom he later discovers is the Holy Spirit.

Shooting is set to begin on the $30 million Lionsgate film in Atlanta or Vancouver later this summer, according to The Tracking Board. Whitaker, while primarily known for his acting chops, has also directed Waiting to Exhale, Hope Floats, and First Daughter.

Not all Christians flocked to the message of The New York Times bestselling book, which sold over 18 million copies.

In 2010, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, described The Shack as a "wake-up call for evangelical Christianity," and that its story reflected "a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects."

He also blamed its popularity among Evangelicals on their ignorance of "basic theological knowledge."

Young, who originally wrote the story for his family without intending to publish it, defended The Shack's message and theology shortly after it was released.

"I absolutely am convinced that this is a God-thing, that God is the One stirring this all up, challenging us to rethink and entertain growing deeper in a relationship with Him rather than pursuing our independence," Young said in 2008.

In 2011, Young added that "part of my journey is to say that the soul of the human being must be a massively intricate, wonderful creation that God has a respect for in ways that we do not and that leaves a huge amount of space to go explore. He (Jesus) didn't come to start a new religion. Jesus is not the 'founder of Christianity.' He came to destroy religious thinking by introducing relationship – and relationship always moves you away from control, which is a major theme in both The Shack and Cross Roads, and into the mystery of relationship."

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