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Let Richard Dreyfuss' people go

November 17, 2009 |  3:00 pm

Richarddreyfus_jaws 

A new audio-book version of the Bible, jam-packed with stars, has made it to shelves in time for the holidays. Richard Dreyfuss does Moses, Max Von Sydow does Noah and Gary Sinise is David, but they're just the beginning. The cast of 600 includes John Heard (Matthew), Lou Diamond Phillips (Mark), Chris McDonald (Luke) and Louis Gossett Jr. (John). Luke Perry is Judas. Who's Jesus? James Caviezel, who played the role once before, in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ." Producer Carl Amari told The Times that he pitched the project to Christian publisher Thomas Nelson.

"I always thought it would be cool to do a radio drama of the Bible," said Amari, who grew up "not real religious" in the Catholic Church. "You're dramatizing the greatest story ever told. It's God's word. How can you make God's word lift off the page? With great actors, great sound effects and music."...

When Amari projected that the venture would cost $4 million, the entire Thomas Nelson board of directors "looked at me," he recalled. It would be a leap of faith, given that the company's previous audio Bibles had cost at most $17,000 to produce. Then again, just 20,000 copies constituted a bestseller.

The audio Bible -- which is a faithful rendering of the New King James Version -- includes a musical score and evocative sound effects, just like a film."It's verbal Cinerama," said actor Michael York, who narrates both the Old and New Testaments. The 79-CD, 90-hour set costs $125.

This fall also saw the release of R. Crumb's "The Book of Genesis Illustrated"; is there a renewed interest in the Bible from secular quarters? "If you remove divinity from the equation, 'Genesis' becomes a human creation," David Ulin wrote in his review. "'A powerful text,' in Crumb's words, 'with layers of meaning that reach deep into our collective consciousness, our historical consciousness, if you will.'" Angelenos can see for themselves -- Crumb's original "Genesis" artwork is currently on display at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Actors Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss in 1975's "Jaws." Credit: Universal Studios

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