In 1958, producer David O. Selznick had an idea for a Biblical epic.
He explained to screenwriter Edward Anhalt, “I want to combine Mary the sister of Lazarus, the adulteress Jesus saved from the stoning, the whore who washed His feet, and the Mary Magdalene who was the first to see Him resurrected, into one character and tell the gospel story through her. And I want to tell it as purely a Jewish story.”
Anhalt liked the idea and set to work writing the Mary Magdalene script. When Anhalt finished he handed the screenplay to Selznick and the two men sat down to to discuss it.