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Shohreh Aghdashloo on The Nativity Story

Published November 28, 2006 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of New Line Cinema.
Everyone knows The Nativity Story is the story of Mary's immaculate conception and giving birth to Jesus. But if you only have a passing knowledge of religion, The Nativity Story could be quite informative. For example, did you know that Mary's sister, Elizabeth, gave birth to John the Baptist? Neither did Shohreh Aghdashloo who plays Elizabeth in the film.

Interview: Shohreh Aghdashloo Learns from The Nativity Story


"I was familiar with the story because my mother and my grandmother had a bible in Farsi with pictures of them," she said. "When I was a child, I loved to pick through this and look at the pictures and all those beautiful pink oleanders and women in the field. But I wasn’t familiar with her position at all. And, as a matter of fact, when I was offered the role, I started a total research on her and unfortunately there isn’t much said about her. There’s only a few lines in the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament and also an A to Z Bible with 3500 characters. So that’s how I approached the role. I didn’t know her, unfortunately."

Elizabeth was prophesied to give birth long after the natural age of fertility. Of course, 2000 years ago, when did menopause hit? "It says in the Bible, although she was barren and she couldn’t have a baby, but God gave her a baby in her senior years and I assume that senior years means when you don’t produce eggs. So she must have been somewhere between 45 to 55."

The Nativity Story Poster The Nativity Story Poster


The Nativity Story Shohreh Aghdashloo in The Nativity Story

The Nativity Story The Nativity Story

Aghdashloo also partook in the Nazareth Boot Camp that trained all the actors for their roles. "Oh my God, it was fun. I’m so happy Catherine did it. Whether it was methodically or not, it helped me a lot. I’m a Method actor. So she had us there. Matera has this biblical look to it so we were very close to home and to where we were trying to portray their characters. And also we were going through all these different sessions of working with a dialect coach, learning how to weave a carpet, how to milk a goat, how to make bread. It took me back 2006 years ago. I’m still thinking, my God, there are so many similar things between the two worlds. But still it takes you there and it allows you to feel at home and even be more truthful. And my favorite part was milking goats. Yeah, it’s so primitive and she’s so hot when you do it and so fragile and I was making a mistake. I was pulling her breasts and then my teacher told me, ‘Don’t do that. You just massage them.’ And the minute I started massaging her breasts, that hot fresh milk came out and that incredible smell that I hadn’t had since I was a child."

The Iranian actress made a splash in House of Sand and Fog and continued to play memorable roles in 24 and X-Men: The Last Stand. Her own religious inclinations are open.

"I was born a Muslim but I am a student of all religions and this is what grandma taught me. And I’ve always been interested in other religions. As a matter of fact, right now I’m studying Buddha but I am reading the Bible as well because now I am hooked. Now I’m in the chapter of John. I am beginning to realize more and more that the Bible is a great source for Western literature. Many big masters of the world throughout history have been inspired by the Bible and Shakespeare, you name it. John Huston, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Federico Fellini. No one better than Fellini can describe what was going on with Sodom and Gomorrah. And that’s why I’m reading it and trying to understand. I read stories and I say, ‘Oh, this was what Ingmar Bergman was trying to say in his Seventh Seal.’"

For the trailers, featurettes, more interviews and additional movie info, head over to The Nativity Story Movie Page.

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Sources: Image property of New Line Cinema.
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