The Guardian reports on the miracle of Matera: Gibson raised the Italian hilltop town from the economic dead when he chose it as the main location for filming.
And Blessed are The Extras, for they shall obtain EU60-90/day
Not only were 600 of "the swarthiest" locals picked as extras in the film, but the town has been born again as a Christian tourist site. Antonio Foschino documents the local production of The Passion on his website, Sassiweb.it--The gregorio.org of Matera, he provides a Passion Package Tour; book early.
At least until high season starts, the town's hotel maid won't charge you a euro to tell about helping Gibson convert the minibar in his suite into a prayer altar. But at the site of the crucifixion scene [above], enterprising craftsmen are already stockpiling hand-carved Matera/Golgotha paperweights, the perfect complement to those Nativity Stone crosses you bought from Ricardo Montalban. [While supplies last. Supplies of rocks in Italy.]
Did Gibson's inspiration for shooting in Matera come from Richard Gere, who made King David there, or from the last Christ movie to be shot in town, Pier Paolo Pasolini's [ who the Guardian gleefully calls "a gay, Communist atheist,"] Gospel According to Matthew? Who knows? But Mel did describe his reaction the town had on him: "The first time I saw it," he said, "I just went crazy, because it was so perfect."