Resurrection

Resurrection is a 1980 film which tells the story of a woman who survives the car accident and discovers that a near-death experience has given her the power to heal other people. Ellen Burstyn delivers a tour-de-force performance as the modern-day miracle in this unforgettable story. It stars Ellen Burstyn, Sam Shepard, Richard Farnsworth, Roberts Blossom and Eva LeGallienne. The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards; one for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ellen Burstyn) and another for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Eva LeGallienne).

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Ellen Burstyn
The Guardian
November 4, 2000

Part OnePart Two

Excerpts:

In about 1977 I was in Greece making a film with Jules Dassin called A Dream of Passion, and my agent called me and said that there was this script called Resurrection in which Jesus Christ comes back to Earth as a woman. I said, “Oooh. I like that.”

[Laughter]

So they sent me the script and then the director and the producer came to Athens to meet me and I said that I really liked the idea of the script, but I didn’t like the script itself. It was about this school teacher who went to Jerusalem and started bleeding from the palms. It just didn’t make an awful lot of sense to me.

So I suggested that they do a script about a woman who was a very ordinary housewife in contemporary society who develops some of the abilities that Jesus had — like healing and so forth. At the time I was doing a lot of reading about the re-emergence of the goddess and I liked the idea of reuniting sexuality and religion — a religious figure who was also a sensual being. I sketched out a rough story for them and the director said, well it’s a good story but we have the go-ahead from Universal to make this script and did I want to do it. I said no, and they left.

When they got back to their hotel the producer called me and said, “We like your story more than our story, and with your permission we’d like to go back to Universal and ask them if we can start over and find a writer to write your story.” So they did.

They found a writer called Lewis John Carlino, who came to my house in New York and stayed with me for about a week, and I told him my life story plus all that I was reading and studying at the time, and out of that came the script that he wrote in, I think, 18 days. We got a new director, Daniel Petrie, and out came Resurrection.

I loved it, and it has had a lot of meaning for a lot of people because it deals with death a lot and the passing over to the other side and the experiences of some of the people I had read about who had had near-death experiences, and that was put into the film. So many people have written and told me how they have been with their parents and helped them cross over because of Resurrection. And that’s pleased me very deeply.

It wasn’t very successful because at the time Universal had no faith in it, and they had another film, which I won’t mention, that they had already released and made a lot of money from, with an actress in it who they felt had a good opportunity to win the Best Actress award. And my reviews said, “Just as so-and-so looked to have a clear shot at the Oscar, along comes Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection.” So Universal made an executive decision to put all their money behind the film that they thought was very successful. And it was. And she did win.

[Laughter]

They pulled Resurrection out of the theatres, so it was running in New York and I was nominated for the Oscar and there was no ad in the newspapers to say it was running. So it was literally killed. Which is a very painful experience, you know, when you love a piece of work and it comes out the way you wanted it to come out and people like it, but the studio decides to kill it. That’s one of the glories of show business.

 

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