LaKeith Stanfield just revealed how his crazy new Biblical epic, The Book of Clarence, which takes place parallel to one of the most famous moments in the Christian religion, might surprise skeptics.
The story of Sony Pictures' latest outing follows Stanfield’s Clarence, a citizen of Jerusalem, in the year 33 A.D.—the same year that sees the rise of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
In response to this mysterious figure’s increasing popularity, Clarence, who is not a believer in God, tries to coast on Jesus’ coattails to save himself from debt, which could become deadly.
Why The Book of Clarence Might Surprise Skeptics
While speaking exclusively with The Direct’s Russ Milheim, the cast and director of the film The Book of Clarence spoke about their time on the unique biblical film, and why the movie might surprise skeptics.
Given the subject matter, it is easy to see how the movie might be controversial to some.
Star LaKeith Stanfield admitted audiences will likely have “preconceived notions,” but he thinks people “will be pleasantly surprised:”
“I don't know. I think that sometimes, on the surface of movies, when you haven't been able to dive into them, you can have preconceived notions. And I think diving into this, I think people will be pleasantly surprised that it isn't something that is directly rooted in scripture, or rooted in the Bible or any, you know, rooted in religion. It's actually just rooted in a story about a man. And his redemption is personal stories, personal redemption, who lived down the street. Might have lived down the street from Jesus, but is not Jesus.”
“This movie is much more universal,” continued the actor, and he is “excited” for people to see it:
“And so I think they'll be pleasantly surprised to see that this movie is much more universal, much more open than they might have thought. You know, I think sometimes, especially on the internet, we're apt to take bits and pieces of things and then think like, we run with it, and we know exactly what's gonna go on. So I think they'll be pleasantly surprised to see that the universe of this is much more open than they might have thought. And so I'm excited for that.”
RJ Cyler also did not think the movie would be very controversial, with “the trailer at most” being what riles up people:
“I think the trailer at most… James, [he] just has a fun, playful mind-space. Because, of course, people are gonna think that it is—but he did that on purpose... We know that we're not doing anything close to what people are thinking. It's just like fun. It's like, okay, we're so sorry. We understand, but wow, when you find out, it's like, first open to seeing you give all of it up. It's like you want to then give them a chance to make you happy. Let us win your smile, please, before giving us your frown.”
Speaking about his time on The Book of Clarence, Cyler shared that the most unique part of the experience for him was “the location and what energy [director] Jeymes [Samuel] can create:”
“The location and what energy Jeymes can create in a location like that?... To create a block party in a space where there are--What do you mean a block party? There isn't even loud music in [Matera, Italy] unless you're in like the younger [crowd]. Nothing [is open after 8 p.m.]. And Jeymes creates downtown Hollywood... He creates such a different smile of a set.”
Samuel would simply play “music throughout the town,” getting the attention of some of the locals:
“We had people that were in their houses because Matera is kind of stacked on top of each other, so there were people just coming out of their balconies. Or you'll see windows opening, and Jeymes is playing music just throughout the town because it's him, you know, and it's great.”
The Book of Clarence has many quirks, offering a fun tale set parallel to the rise of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Among those fun touches, star Anna Diop shared how she enjoyed the addition of “Lingon weed” as a recreational drug used by citizens:
“Oh, what's my favorite Quirk? Um, my favorite part is probably the Lingon weed. It's so fun. Jeymes [Samuel] just has such a playful mind like that. I remember he was trying to come up with a way to introduce Variana. And he's like, okay, okay. Why don't you have, like, what they would be using as a way to burn the ends of the hair? And so, you know, he created this, you'll see when you see the movie, but that's how we're introduced to Variana…”
Cyler added that it’s “a fun throw-in” which “has no meaning:”
“It's like a little fun throw-in. Some people want to give it meaning. it has no meaning… It's not trying to like say, 'Oh, well, in the Bible they used weed to--no, they didn't. Elijah just smoke weed.”
While LaKeith Stanfield’s Clarence may be the main character, Jesus Christ, played by Nicholas Pinnock (as revealed by The Hollywood Reporter), also has a big role in the movie.
Director Jeymes Samuel admitted that he “didn’t want to cast Nicholas Pinnock” originally but was accidentally convinced by the actor, who is his good friend:
“Well, I think for me, I didn't want to cast Nicholas Pinnock as Jesus of Nazareth. At all. I've known Nicolas for like 15, 16 years, right? He's a friend of mine. I don't want to tell this guy, 'Hey, man, I think you're Jesus.'... But he accidentally, probably accidentally, on purpose, read one of the lines of Jesus in my house, but we were talking about another character. I was like, 'Oh my God, that's exactly how [I envisioned] Jesus [sounding]. I wish he didn't do that right now. But nah. And I looked to him... I don't like giving my friends compliments [laughs]. But no, no, no, I'm not casting you as Jesus. 'I don't even want to play Jesus, what's your problem?' I don't want to cast you as Jesus. But he was just so Jesus-y? Anyway, so he got cast as Jesus, and it was awesome.”
As for Benedict Cumberbatch’s mystery character, Samuel revealed the actor “embrace[d]” his role entirely, and being on set with him “was amazing:”
“And you know, casting Benedict [Cumberbatch's] character, as the character he plays, was just a joy, that he would embrace it as well. It's very daring and has its arc. It's just, it was just a joy. It's just one of those moments where you really appreciate what you do. Working with [LaKeith Stanfield], you appreciate what you do all the time because he's just as bonkers as me. But when I asked Benedict when we got on set with him. Like, it was amazing.”
While The Book of Clarence takes place just ahead of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, what other events would the team want to explore if given the chance?
Anna Diop first offered up “Moses and the parting of the seas” before changing her answer to “Adam and Eve.”
Cyler explained how he’d “want to be outside the grave when Jesus pop up:”
“I would want to be outside the grave when Jesus pop up. I would really want to be the first face that he saw. Just that, not to be like, 'My Savior,' only, right? But to be like, 'My Savior. Don't do no more bro. You scared us. Don't leave us. I thought you were gone, bro. But, come on, let's go get you cleaned up.' That's what I want to be. I would want to reintroduce him to others. Like, 'I know they killed you last time. They ain't gonna do that this time.”
Samuel joked about wanting to insert Stanfield’s Clarence into other biblical stories, like “the Moses days,” with Stanfield offering up “Noah's Ark.”
The director jestfully suggested that “Clarence would be allergic to 90% of those animals” while making sure to drop the hint that this “isn’t the last we’ve seen of Clarence:”
“Clarence would be allergic to 90% of those animals. Noah's Ark, or, like Samson and Delilah? The great thing about Clarence is you can put him in anywhere. And also, something tells me this isn't the last we've seen of Clarence.”
The full interview with LaKeith Stanfield and Jeymes Samuel can be viewed below:
RJ Cyler and Anna Diop's full conversation can be seen here:
The Book of Clarence hits theaters on January 12.