How "The Passion" Rattled Hollywood

Barbara Nicolosi on Some Positive Trends

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HOLLYWOOD, California, DEC. 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Plenty of bad movies still come out of Tinseltown, but an industry insider sees some positive changes in the wake of "The Passion of the Christ."



Barbara Nicolosi, director of Act One, a boot camp for Christian screenwriters who hope to work in mainstream Hollywood.

She told ZENIT how bad movies are bad business for Hollywood, now that the industry has seen the power of the Christian audience.

Q: Recent films are portraying sympathetic views of pedophilia, such as "Birth" and "The Woodsman" -- whose gay activist director told the press that he wanted to "put a benign face on pedophilia." Have you seen a trend in normalizing pedophilia, in Hollywood?

Nicolosi: No, absolutely not. This is not a trend, thanks be to God. If it was trying to become a trend, the tide has changed enough that it won't happen.

I haven't forced myself to see either film -- I've been trying to avoid subjecting myself to them. But it seems like no one else has seen those films, either. They came and went without much notice.

I would be careful of even talking about these movies, because then you are doing them a favor. The strategy for dealing with bad product in this industry is: ignore it and it goes away. By talking about it, it gets more attention and stays around longer.

When "Birth" came out, my secular-industry marketing friends hated it. I have a friend in public relations, and he said that no one wanted to touch the project. It stars Nicole Kidman, who is a big talent. She can do anything and they know she will be good, but still no one wanted to promote the film. They did it because of their European partners.

Some people have wondered why Kidman -- who was raised Catholic, has kids and seems to be a generally "good" person -- would agree to do such a film. Most of the casting and production mysteries of this town are due to friendships and favors. Why did this awful film get made? Why did a big star headline it? Probably because of a friend of a friend.

Q: Another film, "Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family," features a "family" of two homosexual men and a woman who conceive a child together. Is Hollywood the next phase of the homosexual movement?

Nicolosi: No, I don't think so. That situation is something that we are seeing in the news and we haven't seen it before; that's why it's attractive to the industry.

There is sympathy for gay families in Hollywood, but it's only enough to make a movie like that once; you can't make it again. It's done. There's not many ways they can do it. We'll probably see a few more, but how many stories are in it?

The momentum in the industry is to find new story ideas, things we haven't seen before. It wouldn't be innately entertaining to do this story too many times.

Q: Has the legalization of same-sex marriage, in some places, opened the door for Hollywood to portray that marriage shouldn't be limited to just two partners -- but three, four, or more -- in various combinations?

Nicolosi: The fact that it is in the media makes it material for the industry. But if something is legalized, it loses its appeal. The industry is cutting edge and prophetic. If something is the norm, Hollywood is not brave for talking about it.

Things in Hollywood have been changing since "The Passion of the Christ" came out. Some folks from a big studio came to a couple of us Christians in the industry recently after they bought the rights to an upcoming movie that will be controversial for Christians. They asked us, "Is there any way we can do this without alienating the Christian audience?"

The answer was no, but still -- I could hardly believe they were concerned about it. When I first came to Hollywood, no one cared about alienating the Christian audience. But here were these execs who didn't want the reputation of being a studio that is anti-Christian. They won the movie in a bidding war with other studios; they obviously wanted to do the film. But if they could, they wanted to avoid Christians picketing them.

Gay marriage is the same thing. If it's going to turn off millions of people, it's bad business. Even if the creative elite want to do it, the business people in the studio won't let it happen. "The Passion" established that Christians make up a huge audience, and the business end of Hollywood wants to attract them.

Q: Do films have the power to make pedophilia and polyamory in a "family" normal and socially acceptable?

Nicolosi: I don't know if films do, but TV does -- it's so much more powerful than cinema. It has hundreds of hours for you to develop relationships with characters; viewers take them to heart and think that they know these characters. Television can do something powerful with your sympathy. People don't want to cast negative judgment on a character they have grown to accept and love.

Television is normalizing. Cinema still feels like an art world, a fake world. The TV is in your living room and lets in things you wouldn't normally allow in your house.

Q: What can concerned Christians do to prevent Hollywood from becoming an ally to those who are intent on undermining traditional family, sexuality and marriage?

Nicolosi: I don't know they have any intent in undermining values -- they think they are enlightened and are working for human rights. They think they are "values" people; they are for freedom, self-expression, free thought. They see themselves in line with Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights fight.

The best way to change Hollywood is to get more of our people in this town. As long as we are not here, we will be begging at the doorstep of people who are very different than we are.

A movie like "Birth" should have been killed, but there wasn't one of us there with enough power or clout. If a healthy person isn't there to recognize an illness, we can't cure the sickness. We can't trust Hollywood to be good again on its own -- not that it ever was. I'm shocked when I see a great movie. It's amazing they make anything good.

It's an unpalatable solution for many Christians, but we need to always have a place in the culture; that's the world we live in.