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Gibson pic retitled to resolve conflict

Controversial film renamed 'Passion of Christ'

HOLLYWOOD — Mel Gibson’s controversial film about the last hours in the life of Jesus Christ will now be known as “The Passion of Christ.”

A rep for Gibson’s Icon Prods. said the change was made because Miramax has registered title “The Passion” for its long-developed adaptation of Jeanette Winterson’s novel by that name.

For now, the title change will only affect U.S. distribution, which Gibson is still in talks to secure. Internationally, Icon is looking into whether it can keep the shorter moniker.

The Winterson novel, published in 1997, is a surrealistic historical romance following a French soldier who works in Napoleon’s kitchen and an Italian woman seeking to recover her heart after it was figuratively and literally stolen by another woman.

Pic was being developed with Gwyneth Paltrow and Juliette Binoche attached to star. Winterson penned a script herself but reported on her Web site in late 2000 that her draft had been rejected.

Hateful message?

Gibson’s pic has sparked criticism from Jewish orgs that the film is anti-Semitic because it suggests Jews were responsible for the death of Christ. Vatican officials have praised the film, which Gibson has privately screened in Rome, as a teaching tool for the Catholic Church and have rebutted the claims that it could spread a hateful message.

Icon will self-distribute the pic in the U.K. and Australia, where the company has its own distrib arms. While Gibson has been in talks with several possible U.S. distributors, no other pact has yet been inked, raising the possibility that Icon could distribute “Passion” on its own domestically.

Gibson hopes to have “Passion” in theaters next Easter.

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