Joseph Fiennes talks ‘Risen,’ portraying Michael Jackson

In “Risen,” Joseph Fiennes stars as Clavius, a Roman tribune.

In “Risen,” Joseph Fiennes stars as Clavius, a Roman tribune. Part detective noir, part biblical tale, the new film, out Friday, covers the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus through Clavius’ skeptical eyes.

Staying true to its biblical origins but never delving into a preacher’s tone, Fiennes’ Clavius is the voice of reason in the film as he’s tasked to uncover the truth about the supposed “hoax” while keeping order in Jerusalem.

amNewYork spoke with Fiennes about “Risen,” as well as becoming Michael Jackson in an upcoming TV movie.


This is a different perspective than what we’re used to in terms of the storytelling. Was that the most appealing part of this for you?

The main thing for me is that when I read the script, it wasn’t until page 30 or 40 until I realized, “Oh, this is a bible movie.” Up until that point I felt it was kind of a film noir. It was a “Chinatown” set in Judea. It was a man sucked into a mysterious murder mystery. The major takeaway was the resurrection and the ascension, and very few films have ever done that. I do believe a major component of the film surrounds the subject of redemption, forgiveness and second chances. Those are pertinent elements in our life’s journey.


You don’t see the two genres coming together in the way that they do here.

No, you don’t. This is definitely a new fresh take. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that this is a really appealing take. For me, what I’m happy about is that it has this balance through that lens that allows an audience of nonbelievers and an audience of believers to sit in the same auditorium.


When you took on this film, even though you’re an actor, did you think if it would be a challenge to market a film like this to a broad audience?

They’ve taken a completely different lens and it takes the stigma and weight Joff of it being a story of faith. It unravels and becomes that, but I don’t think it was so much of a challenge, because when I read the script I didn’t think I was reading a story like that at all. That element is a lovely way in. It’s not aggressively challenging the audience.


In your next project, the TV movie “Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon,” you’re playing Michael Jackson, one of the greatest music icons in the world. Did you anticipate the controversy that has come with this announcement?

I knew it would be controversial. I was shocked and thought about the repercussions. I’m a generation that was born into colorblind casting, so I’ve only ever known colorblind casting. It’s not an issue about color or race, it’s only about the individual for me and what they bring. In terms of Michael, this is the last few years of his life that we’re looking at him. This is a 20-minute TV comedy and it’s a very moving TV comedy. For me, on the page it was less about Michael Jackson and was really about three dysfunctional people. It’s really like a “Little Miss Sunshine” road trip. If anything, it makes fun of celebrity and the disconnect that you get at that iconic level. Of course, it would be absolutely a no-no to portray Michael at any other part of his life, but I have to say, to put it delicately, he looked rather different when we were doing the film.

Niki Cruz