Actor John Turturro.
(photo credit: NIR SHAANANI)
Walter Sobchak, the John Goodman character from the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski, may not have rolled on Shabbos, but his nemesis, Jesus Quintana (aka The Jesus) definitely did, and now he will get his own movie, The Jesus Rolls, due out in 2020.
John Turturro will repeat his show-stealing performance as the outrageous, gay, ex-con bowler in the upcoming film, which he also wrote and is directing. The Coen brothers’ only involvement is giving Turturro permission to use the character. Screen Media picked up the North American distribution rights.
“It feels like a good time to release a transgressive film about the stupidity of men who try and fail and try better to understand and penetrate the mystery of women,” Turturro said. “I look forward to working with Screen Media and bring our work and the character of The Jesus to American audiences.”
The Jesus Rolls, which has been filming on and off in New York since 2016, will also star Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Jon Hamm, Susan Sarandon and Pete Davidson.
The story follows “a trio of misfits” with an “irreverent, sexually charged dynamic” that turns into a “surprising love story... [W]hen they make enemies with a gun-toting hairdresser, their journey becomes one of constant escape from the law, from society and from the hairdresser, all while the bonds of their outsider family strengthen.”
The story was also inspired by characters created by the French director Bertrand Blier, who is credited as a writer on the movie, from his 1974 film Going Places.
Turturro visited Israel as a guest of the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2015, and told me that he would love to make another movie about the iconic character Jesus.
In the intervening years, Turturro has alluded to legal problems preventing this dream from being realized, including his having played a similar character in an off-Broadway play years ago, and basing The Jesus on that after the Coens saw and loved it.
In the 2015 interview he said that he helped create The Big Lebowski character, who is only on screen for a few minutes but who has had a huge impact, in collaboration with the Coens.
“I would run things by them,” he said. “I’m not afraid to do things that are embarrassing. I would do things that I never thought would be in the movie – and then they would use them in the movie.” He also said he still got mail from “men, women and prisoners” about this role, so there will clearly be an audience for the new film.
Turturro’s wife, the actress Katherine Borowitz, is Jewish, and accompanied him on his visit to Israel.
The 1998 Coen brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski, which starred Jeff Bridges as The Dude, the ultimate slacker, and John Goodman as a tightly wound, fiercely observant convert to Judaism, Walter, has delighted audiences for years with Walter’s references to being “Shomer f***ing Shabbos” and quoting Theodore Herzl’s maxim, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
There are Lebowski Fests around the world in which fans dress up as characters and act out scenes, including one that is occasionally held in Jerusalem.
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