He is Risen’s co-producer and senior vice president of Sony’s AFFIRM Films. Rich Peluso recently answered questions about his professional work and the upcoming film Risen that follows Jesus’ resurrection from the point-of-views of two Roman military officers sent to investigate the events, which opens in wide release in U.S. and Canadian theaters on February 19 and then internationally in mid-March.
Please describe the core cast of Risen.
Joseph Fiennes from Shakespeare in Love and Tom Felton from the Harry Potter film series play the two Roman military officers Clavius and Lucius who try to disprove the news of Jesus’ resurrection. This film was a great dramatic elements for both of them, and Tom really opened up dramatically here.
Cliff Curtis also plays Yeshua (Jesus) in an amazing role. These three key actors anchor the film while we also have many other familiar characters like Mary, played by Frida Cauchi (13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi); Mary Magdalene, played by Maria Botto; Pontius Pilate, played by Peter Firth, and the Jesus’ Apostles.
Please describe a daily routine or schedule you might have.
I usually check email early then start reviewing scripts ahead of any production work and then I typically address projects in production. I read one script a day and watch one movie each day. My production process can involve a 5:30 a.m. script review then a screening. I just consume story and content.
What are the most memorable screenings you’ve ever had?
The first cut of Soul Surfer and the first cut of Risen. I was so frightened that they would not work, but the reaction and results were great. It was great to experience real time feedback from many different audiences. There was also a screening of a South African film called Faith Like Potatoes where the first cut had something missing, so this film was re-edited and the result worked very well.
Risen is rated PG-13 for biblical violence. How did this content factor into the production of the film?
We have that sensitivity to all our films. In Risen, we want audiences to work through the overall story and we knew the Biblical adaptation contains violent aspects in two main areas: the dominance of the Roman Empire and Jesus’ crucifixion. We based the film on Scripture from the Bible while adding the investigation element where people have to be convinced of the events. We wanted to envelope the audience in this powerful story.
What do you do to keep high morale/positive attitudes during Risen’s production?
Actual production went well and Mickey Liddell really helped create great atmosphere that really reflected the freshness of the story. Our director/co-writer Kevin Reynolds really featured Clavius and Lucius’ point-of-views and we were excited to have him onboard. The solid source material made everyone excited. When that’s good, then everyone involved is good. Kevin and the crews created some brilliant images and emotions from the story. Eventually we whittle the story down to the point where we were getting great results. I never want to see people look at their watch during the film. I want them to be immersed in the film. This story eventually got down to about one hour and 41 minutes.
Describe the multiple connections among the filmmakers that likely enhanced the collaboration during production.
Steve Mirkovich, who is best known for his editing work on Mel Gibson’s $612 million dollar grossing The Passion of the Christ, was also tapped to edit Risen. Another Passion crew alumni, Maurizio Millenotti, served as Risen’s costume designer. The screenplay was written by Kevin Reynolds and Paul Aiello, with the story credit to Aiello who is also the brother of our producer Patrick Aiello. Everyone is pulling for the same experience. Steve did a great job and the producers helped oversee process very closely. These collaboration connection made the production extra special.
What are some of the most common misunderstandings/misconceptions about filmmaking?
Most people think the process centers on the director in a room making it all. We have to get everyone together. It can seem impossible to make it all come together. There are so many elements. It takes an army of people in the creative process. We work on lists for all to see.
The music and sound also become important considerations in the post production phase. Sometimes the film seems much longer. We were an hour from finishing post production work on Risen. We were doing the final editing in Toronto, Canada. There is a scene where Clavius came into a fortress. There is a voice other side door then the door opens. We listened to this piece and heard an actor off screen who jokingly said “Hello Governor” with a funny accent, which was hilarious, but we knew we had to adjust this scene immediately. The sound engineer spoke “open” in his iPhone; we distorted it and put in the picture. The finalization process can be stressful, but it’s also amazing with everyone’s support, feedback, and solutions to last minute issue like this one.
What are some of your future projects?
On March 16, the inspiring drama Miracles From Heaven will open and stars Jennifer Garner, Martin Henderson, and Queen Latifah. We have several films currently in development now. Many projects are in the script stage and have great themes of redemption and forgiveness including Kicking Up Dirt, a family dirt bike sports movie, and Devil in Pew Number Seven, which is based on the New York Times best-selling book.
Thank you Mr. Peluso!