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During the Christmas season of 2004, screenwriter Mike Rich found himself inspired. "I noticed a handful of magazine articles on the Nativity, on Mary and Joseph, the Magi, the shepherd; all of the characters I'd carefully placed in my family's Nativity set every year when I was growing up," says Rich. "And it occurred to me that while I knew, visually, how the journey to Bethlehem ended, I had very little idea of how they got there, what kind of people they were, and what kind of challenges they likely faced. As a person of faith myself, and as a storyteller, those were compelling questions."

Mike Rich spoke to his then agent, Marty Bowen at United Talent Agency, about writing a screenplay based on the Nativity Story. Having represented Rich through several films including Finding Forrester and The Rookie, Bowen felt Rich's personal faith and his writing style might lead him to create something that was poignant and relatable.

The idea proved compelling enough that Rich set out to extensively research the subject in an effort to discover just who Mary and Joseph really were and what they might have thought. He spent the majority of 2005 researching every aspect of the story. He read and re-read the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, looking for additional information from the Bible about Mary and Joseph's journey.

"I found myself drawn to the amazing choices and decisions that Mary and Joseph made, relying solely on their faith in God and each other,” says Rich. "The trouble is, there is very little source material on Mary and less on Joseph. So what I had to do was really delve into the socio-political and cultural dynamics of the time. The research actually gave me quite a bit to work from, because it showed the dynamics, and from there you could get a real feeling as to what Mary was dealing with.”

In addition to his own in-depth research, Rich turned to a number of experts from a variety of fields and enlisted their help to assure the accuracy of his work. "Very early on, we wanted to get this script out for feedback and into as many hands as possible,” says Rich. "Historians, theologians, Judeo-Christian experts, Catholic experts, Ecumenical experts – they have all helped elevate the authentic feel of this film. Not only visually, but from a standpoint of culture and tradition.”

Although his research proved an invaluable tool in writing the screenplay, it was a personal tragedy that gave Rich his biggest inspiration. "During that year, my father passed away and I felt compelled, both spiritually and emotionally, to tackle something. And so, shortly after Thanksgiving, I wrote the first draft, surrounding myself with music and the Christmas carols. It really was a very spiritual experience. It was a joy to write, not because it was a huge, epic event-based story, but because it was just the opposite: a personal, intimate story of two ordinary people carrying out this absolutely extraordinary mission.”

As Mike Rich labored away on the screenplay, the project began to take on a life of its own and started to change the lives of all the parties involved in its creation. Marty Bowen found himself increasingly drawn to the project, beyond his initial goal of simply finding a home for Rich's screenplay.

"I started re-reading scripture and found one of my favorite calls of the day was to Mike, to discuss the journey of the screenplay and ultimately, I made a very difficult decision,” said Bowen. "I would rather be a part of this movie than solely represent him as a writer.” So Bowen prepared to leave his job at UTA, the talent agency powerhouse where he was a partner.

With that idea in mind, Bowen called New Line Cinema production executive Cale Boyter to set up a meeting. Over the course of lunch, the idea of The Nativity Story came up. Boyter liked the idea and immediately asked, "Who would you get to write it?

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