Ewan McGregor plays Jesus and the devil in new film

Ewan McGregor plays both Jesus and the devil in a new independent film 'Last Days in the Desert'.

Actor Ewan McGregorREUTERS

The film, directed by Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs), was announced last February, when it was described as a struggle between 'a holy man and a demon'.

It wasn't until the list of premieres at the Sundance Film Festival was released yesterday that it became clear that the 'holy man' was in fact Jesus.

Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus used in the film, is tempted by the devil in an "imagined chapter" from his 40 days of prayer and fasting in the desert.

In an interview for Time magazine, McGregor said he didn't think the film would be controversial.

"There's nothing possibly that could upset people, other than the very nature of imagining a story with Jesus that doesn't exist in the Scripture," he said. "There's nothing offensive. I'm not worried about it, because I believe very much in the heart of the film we made."

However, the Scottish actor admitted that the role had initially been a daunting prospect. In order to prepare, McGregor said he imagined the father-son relationship between Christ and God the Father.

"I thought, Okay, he's a man who's struggling to communicate with his dad," McGregor said. "I felt actually the pressure come off myself. I'm not playing Jesus; I'm playing a man whose dad is God and he's trying to speak to his dad. It's really a film about the relationship between fathers and their sons. In every scene of the film, that's at the heart of it."

Speaking of the devil character in the film, McGregor said he could be seen "as another side of Yeshua perhaps, an embodiment of his doubt."

Other cast include Ciarán Hinds, Ayelet Zurer and Tye Sheridan. Sundance, which begins on January 22, is one of the largest independent film festivals in the United States.