Mike Rich is the scriptwriter for "Nativity," and he has talked about the film being from a character-driven point of view
of the Nativity, rather than just being a series of events:
In January, Hardwicke had a stack of scripts on her desk, and she was trying to determine what film she'd like to do next. When she spotted Rich's script, she moved it to the top of the pile.
"The title caught my eye, so I decided to read that one first," she says. "I was amazed at how good it was. I remember thinking, This can't be that interesting. I had read the story in the Bible so many times, and the characters were so iconic. But Mike had gotten so inside the characters: 'What would it be like to be those people?'"
That's exactly what Rich was aiming for.
"The nativity is usually presented as an event-board story—this happened, then this happened, then this happened," he says. "It's rarely presented as a character story. That's how I wanted to do it."
I've read Rich's script, and it's faithful and reverent to the Gospel accounts, but also brings Joseph and Mary's characters alive in a very human way. They wrestle with fears and doubts and anxieties, all within the framework of unshakeable faith.
We meet their parents and families, even before they're betrothed to one another. We're there for the awkward moment when Mary's father tells his daughter that she will be Joseph's wife. We're there for Gabriel's visit, for Joseph's dream, for the journey to Bethlehem—and the gamut of emotions that each experiences, every step of the way.
We get to know Elizabeth and Zechariah. We hit the road with the three wise men—Balthasar, Gaspar, and Melchior. We meet shepherds, tending their flocks by night. We go into Herod's palace and see what a despicable, paranoid man he really is.
There are playful, humorous moments. There are tension-filled scenes. And there is love, especially as shown on the arduous trek to Bethlehem, in which Joseph's tender care for his betrothed begins to shine as brightly as a certain star that has appeared on the horizon.
It's a Bible story. But it's a human story too.
"When you grow up in church, it becomes an objectified story," says Godfrey, the co-producer. "It's never told from Joseph and Mary's perspective; it's a story told without much conflict.
"But what would it be like to be 14 years old and go through what she went through? What would it be like to be a man and have your betrothed come to you and say she's pregnant—not by another man, but as an act of God?"
Co-producer Marty Bowen also loves the way the characters have come to life.
"Growing up Catholic, I've always put Mary on a pedestal," he says. "She was beyond reproach, and we never took her off that pedestal. When you see a statue of Mary in a church, she's not real; she's plaster. We're trying to make her real.
"We want to portray her as a fairly normal girl becoming a young woman. We grow with her in this story; it's an extreme character arc. That's what I hope Catholics get out of this—to see Mary as a girl, not just a woman you can't relate to. And Catherine has done a good job making her identifiable."