It’s always difficult to do a television show about a real person. Inevitably, the show won’t be able to incorporate every significant event into its life. Of course, when the subject of God is incarnated, it becomes even more difficult. After all, Christ achieved quite a lot in his thirty-three years.
As well as worrying about historical accuracy, the director needs to make sure he doesn’t offend people either.
Jesus of Nazareth first broadcast in 1977, it is the most popular Bible story ever filmed. It featured an all-star cast of disciples and Romans and is often shown on the three days of Easter. In many countries it even became a Christmas and Easter tradition.
Given its popularity, we thought you might enjoy some trivial but really fascinating facts about your favorite programming about a historical figure who is also the Son of God.
10 Jesus wore makeup
Producer Lew Grade was looking for his leading actor when his wife suggested Robert Powell for the role of Jesus because of his “mesmerizing” blue eyes.
The makeup department was instructed to highlight them as best they could, so Powell was given a thin line of dark blue eyeliner on his upper eyelids and a thin line of white eyeliner on the lower lid to make them stand out.
This is said to intensify the piercing blue of his eyes so much that he received a piercing look worthy of the Messiah.
9 He never blinks
Director Franco Zeffirelli wanted Jesus to be different from the disciples and to develop a “visual mysticism” around him. He decided that he wanted Jesus to see into the hearts of the people he met. One way to do this was to refuse to blink Robert Powell.
It turned out to be an incredibly effective unconscious technique. Until it is pointed out, the blinking or absence of the audience goes unnoticed. However, after that it is difficult to notice anything else.
Powell’s wide-eyed portrayal made him appear sincere and ethereal. And a bit scary. According to those who counted, the boy Jesus blinks twice while in the temple, and the adult Jesus never blinks during the entire movie. Except for the time after he’s dead. When his lifeless body is in the arms of the Virgin Mary, someone walks by and Jesus involuntarily blinks.
8th Zeffirelli’s Jesus was a Borgia
Why is Jesus depicted as a Caucasian man with long brown hair and blue eyes?
The historical Jesus was almost certainly none of these things, but traditional images of Christ have long been so.
One of the reasons Powell was chosen was because of its resemblance to the traditional image of Christ, which is widely believed to be modeled after Cesare Borgia, who was considered the most beautiful man in the world in his day.
Leonardo Da Vinci Salvator Mundi It is believed to be modeled after the tricky Borgia (pictured), which is strange considering that Borgia’s behavior was very unchristian during his lifetime, despite being the son of a Pope. Da Vinci’s picture shows a more feminine-looking Jesus with fine Renaissance clothing and long brown curls.
This image seems to be entrenched in the minds of religious painters, and the Borgia Christ became the norm. What luck for Robert Powell. And for the audience. Other actors considered for the role were Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino. While undoubtedly both good actors, they would definitely be acting against type.
7th Jesus was dry
Jesus of Nazareth was conceived as a three-part miniseries, although it has been shown in different parts over the years. The screenwriter for Part 1 was Anthony Burgess, the famous writer and author of A Clockwork Orange.
Like Zeffirelli, Burgess was Catholic and enjoyed the opportunity to tell the story of the life of Christ. Unfortunately he only had to tell the first part. He was fired after he was caught writing a review of his own novel, which was written under a pseudonym.
Burgess later claimed that he was disappointed with book reviews and believed that no one had ever read them. He started writing ridiculous things about other writers’ works to see if anyone would complain, but no one ever did.
When his own work came out, he took the opportunity to check it out as well. The rating wasn’t even particularly flattering. He advised readers of the Yorkshire Post that the novel was obscene and cautioned readers not to bother with it. It was all good joke until another reporter left him and he was fired from both the Yorkshire Post and Jesus of Nazareth.
6th Jesus only ate cheese
When Robert Powell was preparing for the role, he was on an extreme diet to make him look gaunt and emaciated during the crucifixion scenes.
In order to lose weight quickly, he decided to forego bread and fish and limit his diet to cheese. Which must have been difficult. But it must have been even more difficult for the thieves who were crucified on either side.
All these hours on set. All that smelly cheese.
No wonder they all looked so tortured.
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5 There are just no happy people
When Franco Zeffirelli agreed to take on the project, he decided that the project should be acceptable not only to Catholics but to people of all denominations. He went to great lengths to consult the leaders of a variety of religions and to discuss in detail each scene and symbolism.
Realizing that he couldn’t put every event in the New Testament, he tried to reach consensus on what should be left out. He also wanted to make sure the film respected the Jewish religion. For example, while Zeffirelli knew that the bar mitzvah ceremony was a 12th century innovation, he included it because he believed it would be recognizable to the public.
If Zeffirelli was satisfied that he had religion on his side, he was in for a great surprise. In an interview he said that he wanted his Jesus to be portrayed as “an ordinary simple man.” Bob Jones III, the fundamentalist Christian and Chancellor of Bob Jones University, meant that Zeffirelli was denying the divinity of Jesus and immediately denounced the project as a blasphemy, even though he had not seen it.
His denunciation carried some weight to his community and resulted in General Motors, which sponsored the film, receiving 18,000 letters of complaint.
They withdrew their funding.
4th Jesus of Nazareth is a silent film
Most of the project was filmed on location in Tunisia. Due to local regulations, the shoot had to employ the local population as background artists. Unfortunately, many of them spoke little or no English. Undaunted, Zeffirelli shot many of the crowd scenes with no sound and later added them in the post.
But it wasn’t just the extras that were synced. Actor Lorenzo Monet, who played Baby Jesus in the temple, was also dubbed. Monet, who was Italian, had been asked to learn prayers in Hebrew but mumbled them into the camera. So Zeffirelli replaced his speech with a dubbed version in English (watch the video clip in point 5 again and you will see what I mean).
Even Robert Powell was dubbed on occasion. When Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king we hear Jesus say yes, but his mouth clearly says otherwise.
3 Judas is nice
Perhaps the most controversial character on the project was Judas Iscariot, played by Ian McShane. Of course, Judas is always a controversial character – everything that Jesus reveals with a kiss and the thirty pieces of silver.
But McShane’s character is nowhere near as clear-cut. While he ultimately betrays his master, it’s not for money, but for politics. He apparently misunderstood the message of Jesus and thought he was advocating the revolution.
Believing that Jesus might just need a push in the right direction, he gives up on his friend and hopes that this will force Jesus to act, fight back and initiate the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Obviously someone was not listening to the parables.
In Zeffirelli’s film, the 30 pieces of silver are given to Judas as an intentional insult and found buried on the floor under Judas’ hanging body.
This portrayal may have made Judas a more personable and understandable character, but many fundamentalists disliked it.
2 From an original idea by. . .
The Jesus Project was first introduced to Lev Grade by Pope Paul VI. Proposed. The television mogul had an audience with the Pope, who complimented him on his previous show Moses the lawgiverand expressed the hope that Grade Jesus could give the same treatment.
Grade was initially skeptical and believed that there would be little appetite for such a project. However, he discussed the idea with Franco Zeffirelli, who was known to be a deeply committed Catholic. Grade had apparently decided that if Zeffirelli said no, he would drop the whole idea.
The Pope is delighted with the result, which has become traditional Easter television around the world.
When it was finished, Paul VI. Invited for a private viewing, after which he gave the show his seal of approval. He also thanked Zeffirelli for making it in a private audience.
1 Robert Powell is the new Jesus
Just as the image of Cesare Borgia has served as the basis for countless paintings and statues in churches around the world, Robert Powell has become the face of Christ for many churchgoers. However, when Leonardo Da Vinci used Cesare as a model, he at least took the trouble to dress him in different clothes and change his hairstyle a little.
Many churches have replaced their old icons with stills from the show, and above many of the altars there are images of actor Robert Powell, who has big eyes, doesn’t blink, and wears makeup. He was even mistaken for the actual Jesus on the street, which is strange.
Recently he was forced to send a message on social media to remind worshipers that he is an actor and not the Son of God.
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About the author: Ward Hazell is a freelance writer and travel writer currently doing a PhD in English literature