Finally ! After many years sleeping in a drawer after a limited release in the USA in 2016, The Last Days in the Desert is finally coming to cinemas in France!
What if Last Days in the Wilderness was the true story of Obi Wan Kenobi’s exile on Tatooine? In any case, this is what a fan imagined by using the trailer to reassemble it Star Wars way in 2016, before the Disney + series was announced.
Indeed, The Last Days in the Desert was filmed in 2015 under the direction of Colombian Rodrigo García. After a secret release the following year in the USA, the feature film worn by Ewan McGregor had never yet been released in France.
It is now done, 7 years after its shooting, via Mission Distribution Cinéma. Of course, the film doesn’t chronicle Obi Wan’s journey on Tatooine after the events of Star Wars Episode 3, but it has some uncanny similarities to the spiritual side of the Jedi Knight.
If Ewan McGregor is wearing an outfit similar to that of the Jedi, we’re a long way from a SF story. The British comedian plays Jesus – and the Devil – in an imaginary chapter of his forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert.
When the future Christ leaves the desert, he wrestles with the devil over the fate of a family in crisis, testing himself in dramatic fashion.
Ironically, Ewan McGregor is now the third actor in the intergalactic Star Wars franchise to have played Jesus, after Max von Sydow in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and Kenneth Colley in Life of Brian (1979).
THE HUMAN DIMENSION OF JESUS
Son of the writer Gabriel García Márquez, Rodrigo García has mostly featured women in his films, such as What I Know About Her… With a Simple Look, Nine Lives, Mother & Child and Albert Nobbs.
With The Last Days in the Desert, he follows the point of view of one man and not just any man: Jesus.
“I take the figure of Jesus and explore the human side of his life. I don’t know what the divine side feels like, so I decided to treat Jesus and his difficulties the same way I would treat an ordinary person. “underlines the director.
Originally, the director was looking for a 30-year-old actor to play Jesus, but his producers persuaded him to contact Ewan McGregor, who immediately accepted the project.
FROM OBI WAN TO JESUS CHRIST
The actor lost weight to approximate the physical condition of a man who fasted for almost 40 days in the desert. But the biggest challenge was getting into the spirit of his character.
“I realized that I really only had to play this guy Rodrigo named Yeshua who walks in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights trying to reconcile the mission that his Father has for him.
He knows that God wants him to return to Jerusalem, start preaching, and finally die for mankind. Once I started thinking that way, it became less scary.”analyzes the 51-year-old actor.
For the mythical interpreter of Obi Wan in the Star Wars saga, The Last Days in the Desert does not seek to deliver a religious message.
“The character I play is Jesus, but we are not making a film about the Gospels. We are making a film about fathers and sons. We are using Jesus Christ and his passage in the desert as a backdrop for explore this topic”says the actor.
For Rodrigo García, this is a coming-of-age story but also an evocation of the power of storytelling.
“The world is a story that God tells us and rewrites over and over again. You could say that in this film, Jesus is trying to rewrite the story of this family. And as the author, I myself interpret the story of Jesus by taking him as a literary character and imagining a new part of his story”he explains.
A MADE IN USA SHOOTING
Surprisingly, The Last Days in the Desert was not filmed in Morocco or Israel, but in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park located a few hours east of San Diego, California.
The director discovered this place on the Internet: “It was beautiful, but a part of me was like, am I really going to shoot this Jesus movie four hours from Los Angeles? It can’t work”he confides.
However, the film crew did indeed film in the USA, all under the supervision of Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, collaborator of Terrence Malick or Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Due to the film’s modest budget, the cinematographer suggested using natural light whenever possible. The director remembers Lubezki telling him:
“To go out there with a full crew of grips and electrical gear would take so much manpower and so many weeks of filming to move the gear that it would be ridiculous”he reveals.
BEYOND GOOD AND BAD
In the film, Ewan McGregor plays a double role, Jesus (Yeshua) and the devil (Lucifer). During filming, the actor called on his long-time understudy, Nash Edgerton, to provide a line.
“He voiced me in Moulin Rouge and Star Wars, so we asked him if he could play the opposite side of those scenes with me. Nash plays the devil when I play Yeshua, and he watches what I do in that role.
Then we would chat and I would react to Nash saying those lines like I was hearing them for the first time.”underlines the British.
Last Days in the Desert hits theaters on August 17.