Ewan McGregor, who plays both Jesus and Satan in the controversial new film Last Days in the Desert, says he "can't image" Christians taking issue with the movie even though it significantly diverges from the Biblical account of Christ's life.
Last Days, which premiered at Sundance last month, follows the son of God, called Yeshua in the film, as he is tempted by evil while on a walkabout in the desert. Included in the plotline is an extra-biblical account where Yeshua meets a family in the desert that is experiencing father/son difficulties.
Yeshua forms relationships with both the boy and his father over the course of their conversations, while struggling with the temptation of Satan, who is simply a more handsome version of Yeshua. Satan taunts and tempts Yeshua away from the work that lies ahead, suggesting that the God doesn't truly love him.
"I was not doing the historical Jesus, I was not doing a divine Jesus. I was doing a parable," Director Rodrigo Garcia explained.
But perhaps more upsetting than the director's liberal adherence to the Biblical account of Jesus' time in the desert is the portrayal of Satan as the alter-ego of the Son of God.
"It's an extraordinary situation to be playing two roles in any film, and its quite daunting when one of them's Jesus," McGregor reportedly said after a screening. "I had to get over the idea I was playing Him ... as soon as I could look at the man, it was easier. But when we started filming I'd realized I'd spent no time thinking about playing the devil. He seemed to be much easier to play!"
Despite the film's theological flaws, McGregor says he does not believe faith-based audiences should have a problem with Last Days, arguing that Yeshua is portrayed as someone who understands his calling.
"I can't imagine [religious audiences having] any issue with it, because there's never a moment that he's uncertain of his faith," he told Yahoo News. "I played him as the son of God and a man who is in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights to meditate on his path, the path ahead of him, which is to go out and preach and dedicate his life, ultimately and completely, to spreading the word of God, his father.
He's not in the desert being uncertain of, "Am I the son of God?" He's just wanting some clarity, some connection with his father, who has set this task for him. And he's not hearing him, he's not able to communicate with him. And that became a very human thing."
While the film has not yet hit theaters, many Christians have already taken to social media to express their frustration over the "blasphemous" film.
"Why would he play both roles?? The implication being that Satan is another side of Jesus??" wrote Stephanie Lundquist Silvester on ChristianToday's Facebook page. "It's pretty blasphemous, in my opinion!"
"To say this movie violates the second commandment, is an understatement. I definitely will not be seeing it," added Rebecca Carvantes added.
"Hollywood has, as has the world, gotten to a point that it has become hostile towards the reality of God. Now, through movies and commercials, it seeks to pervert the gospel and turn the hearts of man into stone, whereby those who look to media and movies for ideas and images would no longer believe in the sovereignty of God. Most of all, that people would no longer take the Bible seriously," Reverend Stacy Swimp, President of Revive Alive Ministries told the Gospel Herald.
"[It is] absolutely deceptive in a subtle way, adding to Hollywood's assault on God's existence and sovereignty."