Movie Article

Holy Rolling

R.E.M. singer is ''Saved'' by ''The Passion'' -- Michael Stipe, producer of the religious satire film, thanks Mel Gibson's movie for opening the doors for his own

We expected ''The Passion of the Christ'' to open doors for other religious movies, but a satire about a Christian high school produced by a rock star? ''We had no idea when we optioned the idea...that Mel Gibson was going to present us with this beautiful gift of a faith-based film in 2004 to perfectly set up, on some level, our faith-based film,'' says R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe. The singer is a producer of ''Saved!,'' an indie film (starring Macaulay Culkin, Jena Malone, and Mandy Moore) about a group of high schoolers who struggle with divorce, teen pregnancy, and homosexuality but still try to, as their Pastor Skip puts it, ''kick it Jesus-style.'' While financing was hard to come by when Stipe's Single Cell Pictures optioned the rights back in 2000 (the singer has been a producer on more than 10 features, including ''Being John Malkovich''), these days the Christian tag is less of a deficit. The film, which earned $459,000 in limited release its opening weekend, even stirred its own controversy, with critics claiming the satire isn't biting enough and churchgoing bloggers crying blasphemy. ''We didn't set out to make a mean-spirited movie,'' says Stipe, who's back in the studio with R.E.M. ''I'm kinda surprised that people think it's controversial at all. But it speaks of the times we're living in.''

Originally posted Jun 11, 2004 Published in issue #769 Jun 11, 2004 Order article reprints