'Last Days in the Desert', a drama film which draws heavily from the gospel accounts of "The Temptation of Christ", premiered earlier this week at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. In the Bible text detailing the parable, Jesus, after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, is beset by Satan, who then attempts to trick the Son of Man via three different temptations. The film is not a direct adaptation, but the parable's themes and message remains largely intact.
Ewan McGregor plays both Jesus – who is called Yeshua in the movie – and The Devil in a double performance that plays better on screen than on paper, according to a film review by Variety's Justin Chang. Chang goes on to praise the film's thoughtful, reserved spiritual style and contrasted it to the grim realism of 'The Passion of the Christ'. "Deliberately paced, sparely imagined and suffused with mystery, writer-director Rodrigo Garcia's seventh feature is nonetheless quite lucid and accessible in its themes of empathy, compassion and sacrifice," he wrote in his review.
Speaking about the role in an interview by Yahoo! Movies, McGregor shares how he portrayed Jesus as more man than deity, but still never uncertain in his faith. "He's not in the desert being uncertain of, 'Am I the son of God?' He's just [wants] some clarity, some connection with his father, who has set this task for him. And he's not hearing him, he's not able to communicate with him. And that became a very human thing," he said.
As for difficulties playing the two roles, the actor admitted that it was interesting since both Jesus and The Devil look exactly alike in the film. He explained that working with his friend stand-in Nash Edgerton in his scenes made it far easier because he was confident in his ability. In the film, McGregor differentiates the two figures through the use of subtle changes in facial expressions and mannerisms.