Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s Jesus Christ is heading to the big screen in Son of God, but the devil character that riled many viewers in The Bible for his similar appearance to President Barack Obama will not be going for the ride.
Burnett and Downey, executive producers of History Channel’s 10-hour The Bible miniseries and its big screen edit Son of God, told The Hollywood Reporter that the character has been cut out in order to avoid stirring up controversy once again.
“It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the devil is on the cutting-room floor. This is now a movie about Jesus, the son of God, and the devil gets no more screen time,” Downey told THR. “For our movie, Son of God, I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus. I want his name to be on the lips of everyone who sees this movie, so we cast Satan out.”
Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni played Satan in the miniseries. When The Bible originally debuted in 2013, the Satan/Obama comparison swept the media.
“History channel has the highest respect for President Obama,” History said in a statement in 2013. “The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors. It’s unfortunate that anyone made this false connection. History’s The Bible is meant to enlighten people on its rich stories and deep history.”
Burnett and Downey both blasted the comparison at the time too.
“This is utter nonsense,” Burnett said last year. “The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouzaani, is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics—including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President.”
“Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love our President, who is a fellow Christian,” Downey said in 2013. “False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of The Bible.”
Burnett and Downey are currently working on a sequel to The Bible that will air on NBC.