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Hollywood film-makers eye the story of historic Westcountry tor

By This is Devon  |  Posted: December 29, 2010

  • The legendary Glastonbury Tor

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It is one of the earliest legends that links the Son of God to a hilltop in Somerset.

And now the story of Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Thorn and Glastonbury looks set to be given the Hollywood treatment.

Some big names behind the blockbuster movie cameras in Tinseltown have already signed up to a big-budget movie chronicling the story of Joseph from the time he buries Jesus Christ to his work creating the first Christian church in this part of the world.

An announcement just before Christmas in Los Angeles could mean a massive influx of a new generation of tourists heading for Glastonbury and up the legendary Tor for the next few years.

And the film-makers said they have been spurred on by the worldwide coverage of the destruction of one of the holy thorn bushes, as reported earlier this month.

The film might take anywhere between three and six years to reach a cinema.

But with big names like Ned Dowd, who produced King Arthur and Last Of The Mohicans, and Star Wars casting director Robin Gurland already on board, it looks like 2011 might be the year the film gets off the ground.

Scriptwriter David Mickey Evans has taken as the basis for the film the Joseph of Arimathea legend – that he escaped the anti-Christian backlash in Jerusalem in the months and years after Jesus's resurrection and headed with a band of disciples to Glastonbury, planted a thorn bush and began spreading the message of Christianity in Britain.

But he has added in a home-grown legend that has slightly more basis in historical record.

That is the story of King Caractacus, the British king from what is now Herefordshire, who battled the Roman invasion in the decade after Joseph's arrival, was captured and successfully pleaded for his life to the Emperor in Rome.

But any locals looking for their 15 seconds of fame in front of the film cameras could be disappointed.

With Glastonbury Tor now featuring the ruined 12th century St Michael's Tower, and the town slightly changed from 2,000 years ago, filming of the movie Glastonbury, Isle Of Light, will be shot mainly in Wales.

And the Welsh language – once spoken by all Romano-British people – will also feature, said a spokesman for the filmmakers, Galatia Films.

"With the recent felling of the Glastonbury Thorn by vandals, the epic narrative film has taken on even greater significance," said the spokesman.

"Glastonbury: Isle Of Light will be the first major motion picture to feature both the history and traditions of Glastonbury.

"The producers believe it will be a positive film that will not only deal with the beginnings of Arthurian tradition but also the very birth of Christianity in the British Isles, perhaps one of the single most important historical events in British history.

"In the wake of last week's story regarding the vandalism that occurred to the Glastonbury Thorn, the coming production is compelling news and adds a new level of hope for the tree's roots," he added.

"The origins of the humble tree and Christianity in Britain will be featured within the movie that will be released within just a few years' time.

"Preservation of the Welsh language is paramount among the filmmakers' objectives as ancient Welsh is included within the Isle Of Light script," he added.

Legends of Joseph, Jesus and St Augustine

Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea journeyed with Jesus Christ's supporters to France and on to Somerset, possibly with Christ's mother Mary.

Other legends suggest Jesus himself lived in Glastonbury for a time before his ministry in Palestine.

Glastonbury was at the centre of the West of England metals trade, with a speciality in lead, to go with Cornwall's tin mines. Joseph of Arimathea was a well-travelled merchant.

Christianity was certainly well established in Britain in early Roman times – British bishops were regarded as the most senior at the Council of Arles in the 3rd century.

When the missionary StAugustine in the 6th century was sent to the supposedly heathen England after the Saxon conquest, he arrived at Glastonbury and found an ancient Christian church that locals told him Jesus himself had built.

The Holy Thorn planted in Glastonbury has been tested and found to have Mediterranean origins.

The British tribal leader Caractacus – who this film will suggest was converted to Christianity by Joseph of Arimathea – fought and lost against the might of the Roman Empire after the invasion in 43AD.

He was recorded by Roman historians at the time after he pleaded for his life when taken to Rome.

His eloquence and argument won over Rome's rulers.

He told them their victory was greater because he fought hard, and their achievement would be better if they showed him mercy. They did and he lived out his life with a villa and a pension in Italy.

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