Catherine Hardwicke Explains Her Connection to the Material: When I had done a little research and found out that Mary was 13 or 14 years old, I immediately thought of my girls at 13, like Nikki [Reed] and Evan [Rachel Wood]. What if they were in this circumstance? What if any of my nieces or anyone that I know was put into the circumstance where everybody else scorned them, nobody believed them? It just started drawing me in. I just wanted to explore that like what would it feel like to be going through this journey, this amazing journey. How do you find that inner faith to continue?
Hardwickes Religious Background: I grew up in the Presbyterian Church and I went to church every Sunday. My parents dragged the kids. Thats where I learned to draw on the church bulletins to try to get myself through the sermons, but I actually did love it. You know, I mean I read the Bible from beginning to end when I was 13, Old Testament and New Testament, surprised by the contrast all through to the amazing difference when Jesus came to earth. It seemed like everything changed and got a little bit happier at that moment. Its always really been a part of my life since [I was] a child.
Bringing Mary Down from Her Pedestal: The producers of The Nativity Story say it was Hardwickes decision to show Mary as more of a typical teenager than how shes normally portrayed. I think at the very beginning when I first read the script - Mike [Rich] wrote a beautiful script - but in the very first scene Mary was extremely holy, pious, and the perfect saint, even in the first scene. I thought, well, not that she shouldnt be a wonderful person, but she was a kid too, you know? She was 13 years-old. I mean all scholars believe thats how old she was because of life expectancy rates at the time. So she would have been playing.
You look at any kid that especially doesnt grow up in our age with our troubles, there is that sense of life and joy. I thought it was important to see her that way. Also if your parents told you, You are going to marry this man, and you didnt even like that guy, you didnt even know him, I think most people would feel something. As much respect as you have for your parents, youd be a bit taken aback by the idea that youre going to spend your life with this man. Your father starts talking to you about dont have sex until youre married. Those are very personal things and emotionally charged. Thats why I felt it was probably real emotions.
On Humanizing the Story of Mary and Joseph: When you look at Matthew and Luke, there are these beautiful passages, but really only one sentence that says a lot. You take one sentence in Matthew that says, Being a righteous man, Joseph decided to divorce her privately. You know Im paraphrasing, of course. And you think, Decided to divorce her privately Well, theres a lot more to it than just that one sentence. This is a person that he loved. He was a devout Jewish man. All the emotions that go behind that, thats what we wanted to explore. Be true to every passage in the Bible but really get in there deeper and imagine whats the moment before that moment and what a heartbreak it was. I didnt think it was hard to be true to the Bible, but then expand.
Advising Her Actors: We tried to actually just be in the moment, in the actual physical moment, not let people think of Jesus or Mary or Joseph 2000 years later, what churches wrote about it many years later, explained Hardwicke. Lets just try to be there right now. Anytime wed start to second guess, Lets just go back to the moment. What are you doing physically? Youre building a house. This is a girl you love. This is an angel visiting you. What would you think? Just be right there in the moment.
The Thought Process Behind How to Portray Angels: Hardwicke said it basically came down to keeping it as simple as possible. Weve seen so many kinds of special effects in all kinds of other movies, like Star Trek and all that, that even if you might envision that at first, I think thats going to be a little scary to see. I thought that we read in the Bible that angels did take the form of a man, so a man from that region. Somebody that had the same skin tones as the people that lived in that area but with dignity and power, but also kind of a kind approach when he talked to Mary because he would be talking to a 13-year-old girl. And then also with the wind and the elements that you feel, I thought that probably the energy and the force would possibly affect the olive grove and the branches.
The Three Wise Men Provide Comic Relief: Although Hardwicke says it was unintentional, almost every appearance of the Three Wise Men in the film contains comedic elements. I didnt know that the Three Wise Men were going to be quite that comical, but people seem to relate to them. Some of it came about when we did rehearsals. You might have heard of Nazareth Boot Camp and all that stuff? I wanted the Wise Men to be rehearsing riding camels so you would feel what is it like to be on camels for nine months in the desert camping out with three other guys. Thats probably not the most pleasant experience for most people. In fact, after about mile two, they were like, Uh uh, we dont want to be riding these camels, when we were doing the rehearsals. They started getting crabbier and grumpier and, you know, Hes got a better one than me. And the other one says, Hes got a better saddle.
A lot of things came partly organically from the idea that with each character you try to figure out what would it have really been like to go on that journey or to be in this think tank with these three guys. The King of Persia evidently did finance think tanks of philosophers and astronomers at the time. He tried to keep them separate all over Persia. Dont talk to anyone else so you can have independent thinking. This is kind of fascinating stuff when you really start reading about these guys and what they could have been.