As a kid in the 1960s, reality TV king Mark Burnett was thrilled by the special-effects miracle of a sundered Red Sea in "The Ten Commandments." "How cool was that?" said the producer of TV's "Survivor" and "The Apprentice," who watched Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film when it aired on television.
It's set to air in 2013, History channel president Nancy Dubuc said Tuesday.
A MAJOR PROJECT The series will combine live action with computer-generated imagery to retell stories ranging from Noah and the Ark to Exodus to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Shooting is planned for the Middle East and elsewhere.
Burnett said he and Downey (who starred in a different look at faith, the fantasy series "Touched by an Angel") have been working on the project for two years. Both grew up with Scriptures, he in England and she in Northern Ireland, but aren't on a mission, Burnett said.
"People apply personal meanings to the Bible. Our job is to tell the stories in an emotionally connected way," he said, adding that much of great literature and its characters are rooted in the book.
For a new generation, "The Bible" provides a way to visit the work "in a visual and entertaining way" that may encourage viewers to seek more information, Dubuc said.
"Regardless of your beliefs -- and we're not drawing on any feelings about the importance of faith -- this is the most-studied book of all time," she said.
"The Bible" is using the New International Version, the translation preferred by evangelical Christian leaders, and the New Revised Standard Version, Dubuc said. A committee of theologians and scholars is being assembled to consult on the series.
A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE Burnett called it humbling to portray the Scriptures on- screen and gratifying to "breathe fresh visual life into incredible stories for a global audience." The miniseries offers rare depth and the chance to create a "legacy" project, said Burnett, 50, whose credits include the new TV singing contest "The Voice" and the upcoming Emmy Awards ceremony.
"I could be 80 or 90 and it could still be on television," he said of "The Bible."