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LONDON — Joaquin Phoenix is being considered as a leading contender to play Jesus in Garth Davis’ “Mary Magdalene,” joining Rooney Mara in the cast, Variety has learned.

The film’s production company See-Saw Films, which is teaming with Universal Pictures Intl. Productions on the project, is in early talks with the actor’s representatives, WME and Sloane Offer. Phoenix has been nominated for an Oscar three times — for “Gladiator,” “Walk the Line” and “The Master” — and was nominated five times for a Golden Globe, for those three films (winning for “Walk the Line”) as well as “Inherent Vice” and “Her.” He was last seen in Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man.”

“Mary Magdalene” is being produced by See-Saw’s Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, whose credits include “The King’s Speech.” Film4 co-developed the film with See-Saw. Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett penned the script to “Mary Magdalene,” which is described as “an authentic and humanistic portrait of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history.” Production is set to begin in the summer for an anticipated release in 2017.

Universal will release the film in all international territories except Australia and New Zealand, where it will be handled by See-Saw’s long-time partners Transmission Films. The Weinstein Company acquired North American rights earlier this year.

The news was first reported in Variety‘s sister title Deadline.