Joaquin Phoenix plays Jesus Christ in 2017 biblical biopic 'Mary Magdalene'; violent crucifixion scene filmed in Italy

Joaquin Phoenix portrays Jesus Christ in the upcoming movie 'Mary Magdalene.'Reuters

Jesus Christ will be portrayed on the big screen once again, this time by American actor Joaquin Phoenix in the upcoming biblical biopic "Mary Magdalene."

Playing the title role is Rooney Mara, a 31-year-old American actress who was a co-winner of the Best Actress Award for her role in the 2015 Cannes Film Festival romantic drama "Carol."

Phoenix, 42, received international attention for his portrayal of Commodus, the corrupt and vain Roman Emperor, in the 2000 historical epic film "Gladiator," which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

He also distinguished himself in playing the role of a lonely writer who fell in love with an artificially intelligent operating system in "Her" (2013).

For his latest movie starrer, Phoenix has grown a big, coarse bushy beard and wild hair to portray a more traditional depiction of Jesus, The Daily Mail reported.

Phoenix and Mara were seen in rural Italy recently, together with Director Garth Davis, for the film's Jesus crucifixion and burial scenes. Some violent scenes were filmed, including Jesus being brutally stabbed in the side with a spear by a Roman soldier, a scene described in the Gospel of John.

"Mary Magdalene" will see an authentic portrayal of Mary with focus on the bond between her and Jesus of Nazareth, according to the Daily Mail.

Mara is not the first actress to take on the role of Mary Magdalene. Barbara Hershey played the same role in Martin Scorsese's controversial 1988 movie "The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ," which featured an imagined scene showing Jesus having Mary as his wife.

In the Scorsese film, Jesus (played by Willem Dafoe) is seen being tempted by the Devil at his crucifixion into embracing the life of a normal man. In a dream sequence, he is seen marrying Mary and having a baby with her.

The movie drew the ire of certain Christian groups, with protesters picketing the Universal Studios in Hollywood, California and some countries banning or censoring the film for years.

Another Jesus' movie that also drew controversy was Mel Gibson's 2004 epic "The Passion of the Christ," which featured Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene. In that movie, Mary stayed silent and was depicted in her traditional role.

What disturbed the critics was the movie's violent depiction of the Passion and crucifixion of Christ.

How Davis will portray both Jesus and Mary in "Mary Magdalene" has not been discussed yet. However, Deadline described the film as "an authentic and humanistic portrait of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history," which apparently hints at another controversy.

The film, scripted by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett, is set for release sometime next year.