Israeli teen actress Odeya Rush has been picked to play a young Virgin Mary in a Hollywood prequel to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
The 15-year-old is to star in the film “Mary, Mother of the Christ” opposite Ben Kingsley and Julia Ormond. She has been cast to personify the title character at the ages of 8, 15 and 19. The film is expected to be announced at the Cannes Film Festival in the coming days.
Rush has left her family in Israel in favor of the United States at the age of 9, and has played parts on television shows like “Law and Order” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” She has also snagged a central role in “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” a Disney movie starring Jennifer Garner that is set to be released this summer.
“Mary” chronicles the life of Jesus Christ’s mother from childhood. Gibson has no part in this epic, which was penned by “Passion” screenwriter Benedict Fitzgerald. Instead, the film is to be directed by Alister Grierson. The casting directors decided against splitting the role of young Mary between three actresses, picking Rush for the job. She reportedly beat out several Hollywood starlets who contended for the gig.
Filming is expected to begin in August, and is set to take place in Malta, Jordan and California.
Rush said that she was somewhat reluctant when she was initially handed the script, but found it completely devoid of anti-Semitic sentiment.
“On the contrary,” she said. “The film emphasizes the suffering inflicted on the Jews by the Romans in those days. It is very exciting for me.”