"Harry Potter" producer David Heyman has signed on to produce the film adaptation of the controversial book "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth."
Lionsgate secured the rights to the book—written by Reza Aslan and published in July 2013. "Zealot" was a New York Times and Amazon.com Best Seller.
The entertainment company announced in December that it had picked up the project, and announced Heyman's involvement this week.
"Reza Aslan has written a remarkable book that manages to bring the ancient world into contemporary relief and to make a timeless story very timely," Lionsgate Co-President Erik Feig said in a statement. "We are excited to create this uniquely cinematic and immersive world for moviegoers to experience."
"Zealot" was controversial because of Aslan's Iranian-American background and Muslim beliefs. Television personality Lauren Green was particularly critical of the Aslan's perceived intentions in writing about Jesus Christ.
"You're a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?" the Fox News anchor asked.
"To be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim," Aslan answered.
The professor and author was a Christian, but converted to Islam.
"Zealot" is presented as a historical account of the life of Jesus Christ and the origins of Christianity, but has been criticized as simplistic and overly reliant on discredited texts. In particular, scholars have panned Aslan's assertion that it would be "almost unthinkable," for a man of Jesus' age and time to be unmarried, and that His "divine messiah" proclamation would have been an "anathema."
Aslan said that the film adaptation will be in keeping with his book's perspective.
"[Liongate's] vision for 'Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth' is aligned with my objective in writing the book, which was to illuminate the life of Jesus in a humanistic, as opposed to religious, context," he told the Hollywood Reporter.
Aslan is also the author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam."
James Schamus, of "Hulk," and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" fame, is writing the screenplay for "Zealot."