Heaven help us -- the movie industry is rekindling its love affair with the Bible.
Deadline New York confirmed on Thursday that the Hollywood heavyweight Will Smith is setting his sights on a big-screen version of Cain and Abel, the biblical tale of sibling rivalry between the two sons of Adam and Eve. The film, which is being developed under the name The Redemption of Cain, will not be Smith's next project, but it is reportedly being prepped as a future vehicle for the Men in Black star.
News of the pending project comes as Hollywood's trip-master general, Darren Aronofsky, is revving up production on Noah, starring Russell Crowe as the ark-building prophet alongside costars Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson. Earlier this week, Aronofsky tweeted a photo of the under-construction ark, along with a reference to Genesis 6:14, in which the Almighty commands Noah to Make thee an ark of gopher wood.
Meanwhile, there appear to be two competing Moses movies in the works, one from Steven Spielberg and the other from Ridley Scott. Spielberg is apparently further along, having inked a deal with Warner Bros. (NYSE: TWX) to direct a Braveheart-like tale of Judaism's chief prophet. No word yet on who will assume the starring role, but whoever it is will have to live up to the campy ghost of the late Charlton Heston, who played the great emancipator of Israel in Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 epic, The Ten Commandments.
Of course, as nothing heralds controversy like media representations of the Bible, there is no shortage of trouble surrounding the development of Jesus of Nazareth, which is will be helmed by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven (who may or may not still have a chip on his shoulder after his Worst Director Razzie Award for 1995's Showgirls). Verhoeven is aiming to present the central figure of Christianity in a more humanistic light, with all the miracles and that bit about the resurrection apparently cut from the story. Verhoeven has long been a Jesus buff: In 2010 he published the book about Jesus that has become the basis for the film, and he's also a member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of biblical scholars based out of Salem, Ore.
Big-screen biblical epics have died down since the golden age of Ben Hur and Samson and Delilah, but they can still do a brisk business at the box office. One of the few in recent memory, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, was mired in controversy and lukewarm reviews, and yet the film still took in almost $400 million on a $30 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo. Even for secular Hollywood, that's some amazing grace.