Franciscan friars in New York loved Mel Gibson’s hit movie “The Passion of The Christ,” so much they are petitioning him to follow-up with a film biography of the order’s founder, Saint Francis of Assisi.
More than 40,000 hits have been registered on the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal’s “open letter and respectful petition” addressed to Gibson, and more than 8,000 readers have filled out the online petition at www.franciscanfriars.com.
Father Glenn Sudano, head of the community of 82 friars in the New York metropolitan area, had the petition posted after seeing “The Passion,” believing it would be a natural sequel and high time for a realistic portrayal of Saint Francis.
“They dip these people in plaster,” Father Glenn said about perceptions of the saints. “They are much more powerful, more interesting, more engaging, much more human.”
“The Passion of The Christ,” has been a sensation at the box office, grossing more than $360 million in North America alone since its February release.
The open letter praises Gibson for his “extraordinary work of sacred art” and asks him “to produce a sequel which would show the world what happens when a person totally and unequivocally responds to the Passion of the Christ!”
Father Glenn said recent films on Saint Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment, were like caricatures.
“Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” (1972) directed by Franco Zeffirelli, “neutered and reduced Saint Francis and made him into something of a hippie,” said Father Glenn.
The casting of rough and ready Mickey Rourke in the title role of “Francesco” (1989), directed by Liliana Cavani, was “not even a near miss.”
Father Glenn said he hoped to get an audience with an associate of Gibson to discuss the project, but was keeping his options open.
There was no immediate comment from Gibson’s representatives.
“My hope is that it raises the issue,” Father Glenn said about getting a proper Saint Francis biopic on the big screen.
“If Mr. Gibson chooses not to do this, maybe there will be a Polish director or whatever — that’s why we have the letter and petition in different languages. We just want someone to do it right.”
The open letter can also be read in Italian, German and Polish.