The Boys From Bethlehem

“You know how all those volcano movies came out within six months of each other?” asks screenwriter Ian Corson. “It’s like that now, but with scripts about clones of Jesus.”

Thanks to Mel Gibson and The Da Vinci Code, Christ is “hot” again, according to People. HOLLYWOOD IS DASHIN’ FOR PASSION CLONES, reported Variety—but the magazine didn’t know how right it was: A number of films are already in the pipeline in which the messiah has literally been cloned from holy DNA.

Days after Gibson’s movie opened, actress Alfre Woodard optioned J. R. Lankford’s Christ-clone story, The Jesus Thief. And producer Michael Mailer says that The Passion “certainly enhances the momentum” behind his Christ-clone film, The Genesis Code, which begins shooting in August.

Stories about cloned Jesuses first surfaced in 1988, when the sci-fi novel Children of the Shroud was published. Since then, a subgenre of Christian literature has channeled religious anxiety about genetic engineering into apocalyptic narratives.

Now the genre has been Hollywoodized. Written by Alien’s Ronald Shusett, The Genesis Code stars Andy Garcia as a detective faced with a series of young murder victims who look strikingly alike. Corson’s Bloodline, in development at Castle Rock and co-produced by James Woods, follows “an internationally renowned jewel thief” who protects a 12-year-old clone from “holy warrior monks.” Then there’s the yet-to-be-greenlighted comedy The Messiah Complex—about a goofy kid who doesn’t fit in because he’s a clone of Jesus.

Unlike Gibson’s movie, none of these films is likely to be charged with anti-Semitism, except perhaps The Jesus Thief. In Lankford’s novel, a mad Manhattan scientist, born Jewish but raised Catholic, becomes convinced that the Jews did kill Christ—and that by resurrecting Jesus in his lab he can end anti-Semitism forever.

In the film, Lankford sees Woodard as the Harlem maid and modern-day Mary who carries the clone to term, with emotional support from a crotchety Irish doorman. “They’ve cloned a sheep,” he says in the novel. “Let’s clone the shepherd.”

The Boys From Bethlehem