Paranormal romances? Been there. Fairy-tale rehashes? Done that. Next, please… wait a minute — Biblical epics? Yes, apparently they’re the new thing (after being the old thing decades ago), and yes, it will catch on. In fact, it’s already been labelled the new “white hot trend,” the latest of which being Pontius Pilate, an account of one of the most infamous Biblical figures of all time.

For those of you not familiar with Bible characters (let’s face it, a lot of us aren’t), Pilate – not actually a fun body-tightening exercise routine but an actual guy – presides over Jesus Christ’s trial. The reluctant Pilate eventually bows to pressure and sends Jesus to the cross, and ultimately, to his death.

According to /Film, the script is pretty hot, and has just been acquired by Warner Bros. from Woman on Top writer Vera Blasi.

Pilate, often been portrayed in an unequivocally harsh and negative light, seems to be portrayed in Blasi’s screenplay as more of a complicated man under pressure — perhaps  more along the lines of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, than either Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ or Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie. Here’s Deadline‘s description of the plot:

This script follows the evolution of Lucius Pontius Pilate from the sensitive son of a Roman Knight into a ferocious soldier whose warrior exploits make him a general and puts him on a political track under the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Promised a military governorship in Egypt, Pilate is instead assigned by Tiberius to become the prefect of Judea, at a time when Jerusalem was a cauldron of religious tensions between various factions of the Jewish faith. Pilate veers from the political fast track into the express lane to hell and historical infamy.

Rather than a straight ahead Biblical film, Blasi’s script reads almost like a Biblical era Twilight Zone episode in which a proud, capable Roman soldier gets in way over his head. His arrogance and inability to grasp the devoutness of the citizenry and its hatred for the Roman occupiers and their pagan gods leads him to make catastrophic decisions. All of this puts him in a desperate situation and in need of public approval when he is asked to decide the fate of a 33-year old rabbi accused by religious elders of claiming he is King of the Jews. Along the way, such Roman emperors including Caligula and Tiberius and New Testament figures like John the Baptist, Salome and Mary Magdalene are seen in a tale that culminates with Pilate’s fateful decision to allow Jesus Christ to be crucified.

Deadline appears to love Blasi’s screenplay, and likens Pontius Pilate to Braveheart and Gladiator. And the writer has obviously done her research, having spent about a decade researching Pilate and the historical events surrounding him and estimates that her finished screenplay is about 80% fact and 20% “dramatic license.”

And that’s not all; Warner Bros. is eager to fast-track the script. Set to produce are Mark Johnson and Lynn Harris, and directors are already being targeted to helm this project.  It’s not Warner Bros.’ only Bible-based project; the studio also has the Moses film Gods and Kings, and the Seth Grahame-Smith adaptation Unholy Night brewing.

Anyway, whichever way you look at it, this trend is only just beginning. The first we can expect to see of it will be Aronofsky’s Noah, which is already filming for a spring 2014 release. Also in development outside of Warner Bros. are Sony’s Cain and Abel movie with Will Smith, Ridley Scott’s Moses-based Exodus, and Paul Verhoeven and Roger Avary’s Jesus of Nazareth.

What do you think of the Pilate news?