FILM classification chiefs said they had seen a huge rise in the number of people complaining about a controversial film portraying Jesus and his disciples as gay men – even though it does not exist.
The British Board of Film Classification's (BBFC) senior examiner Craig Lapper said there was a constant issue with rumours that a movie version had been made of a controversial play called Corpus Christi.
The play, by Terrence McNally, is set in modern-day America and deals with issues including gay marriage, but it has never been made into a film.
Mr Lapper said: "I think it was a bit of an internet hoax several years ago suggesting a film was being made of the play in which Jesus and his disciples were portrayed as homosexuals, and I can remember replying to people concerned about this blasphemous film back in the late 1990s.
"And this year again, for whatever reason, there was another spike in people writing to us to insist that we ban this terrible blasphemous film.
"We just had to write back and say, 'This film doesn't exist'."
The BBFC received six complaints about it in 2011 and another two queries this year, with complainants often asking them to ban the film on the grounds it is blasphemous and offensive.
But it has a long way to go before it matches the numbers generated by the most complained-about film of the past 10 years –Batman: The Dark Knight.
There were more than 300 complaints made by viewers about the 2008 film, which starred Christian Bale as the masked superhero and Heath Ledger as The Joker, with many people feeling that it was too dark and violent for its 12A rating.