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Jesus of Nazareth [1977] (2 discs)

Director:Franco Zeffirelli
Writer:Anthony Burgess
David Butler
Franco Zeffirelli
Suso Cecchi D'Amico
Composer:Maurice Jarre
Length:382 minutes
(6 hours 22 minutes)
MPAA Rating:TV-G
Suggested Event Use:Easter
Sorting Category:Religious
IMDB Rating:8.5/10
Amazon Rating:4.5/5 stars
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Synopsis: Beginning before the Nativity and extending through the Crucifixion and Resurrection, this mini-series brings to life all of the sweeping drama in the life of Jesus, as told by the Gospels.

Personal Rating: ...

Franco Zeffirelli => Director / Writer
Anthony Burgess => Writer
David Butler => Writer
Suso Cecchi D'Amico => Writer
Maurice Jarre => Composer
Anne Bancroft => Mary Magdalene
Anthony Quinn => Caiaphas
Christopher Plummer => Herod Antipas
Cyril Shaps => Possessed Boy's Father
Donald Pleasence => Melchior
Ernest Borgnine => The Centurion
Francis De Wolff => Simon the Pharisee
Ian Bannen => Amos
Ian Holm => Zerah
Ian McShane => Judas Iscariot
James Earl Jones => Balthazar
James Farentino => Simon Peter
James Mason => Joseph of Arimathea
Jonathan Adams => Adam
Laurence Olivier => Nicodemus
Martin Benson => Pharisee
Michael Cronin => Eliphaz
Michael York => John the Baptist
Murray Salem => Simon the Zealot
Nikki Van der Zyl => Salome
Olivia Hussey => Mary
Peter Ustinov => Herod the Great
Ralph Richardson => Simeon
Robert Beatty => Proculus
Robert Brown => A Pharasee
Robert Powell => Jesus Christ
Robert Rietty => Various small roles
Rod Steiger => Pontius Pilate
Stacy Keach => Barabbas
Stefan Kalipha => Melchior's aide (uncredited)
Valentina Cortese => Herodias

Random Trivia For This Title:

  • Olivia Hussey (Virgin Mary) doesn't age through the mini-series, as it was said the Virgin Mary never aged throughout Jesus' life.
  • Dame Elizabeth Taylor was interested in playing Mary Magdalene.
  • Sir Tom Courtenay was offered the role of Jesus.
  • Ian McShane was originally offered the role of Joseph of Arimathea. He turned it down, but held out for Judas Iscariot.
  • Robert Powell came under severe criticism from religious groups for "living in sin" with his companion, dancer Barbara Lord of Pan's People, while intending to portray Jesus. The couple married shortly before production began.
  • [?] Maria Schneider was originally offered the role of the Virgin Mary, but declined, and later regretted the decision.
  • Robert Powell went on a near starvation diet (eating just cheese) for twelve days prior to shooting the crucifixion scenes in order to appear physically emaciated following Jesus' imprisonment and torture.
  • Some portions of Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) were filmed on the same sets and locations as this mini-series. Python director Terry Jones remembers that some extras had worked on both productions, and would occasionally comment "Franco would never film it like that!"
  • In a 2019 interview, Robert Powell admitted that, while he wasn't personally religious, he did have, what could be described as a religious experience when shooting the Sermon on the Mount scenes in front of hundreds of rapt and tearful extras. The crew were also highly emotional afterwards and congratulated Powell for his powerful performance.
  • Writer and director Franco Zeffirelli considered Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino for the part of Jesus, and Robert Powell to play Judas.
  • According to Ernest Borgnine (The Centurion), many local extras had to be dubbed because they couldn't speak English very well. Writer and director Franco Zeffirelli decided to avoid recording sound altogether in many parts, and simply sent the principal actors and actresses to dub their own characters in the studio later.
  • Peter O'Toole was cast as Judas, but had to back out of the project, due to illness.
  • Writer and director Franco Zeffirelli wanted [?] Marcello Mastroianni for the role of Pontius Pilate, but they couldn't agree on financial terms. Zeffirelli was happy in the end as he felt that Rod Steiger was a "magnificent Pilate".
  • The cast includes seven Oscar winners: Christopher Plummer, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Peter Ustinov, Anne Bancroft, Anthony Quinn, Rod Steiger, and Ernest Borgnine; and six Oscar nominees: James Mason, Sir Ian Holm, Ian Bannen, James Earl Jones, Valentina Cortese, and Sir Ralph Richardson.
  • Because Robert Powell looked so much like Jesus in pictures, every time he exited his dressing room in costume, the foul language the crew was using would suddenly stop.
  • Rarely during the movie do any of the actors portraying Jesus blink their eyes. Writer and director Franco Zeffirelli decided on this as a means of creating a subconscious visual mystique about the character that not only differentiated him from all of the other characters, and is eerily effective. The boy Jesus in the Temple blinks twice in the Temple, and the adult Jesus blinks only once on film.
  • While shooting in Tunisia, the set had a surprise visit by R2-D2. George Lucas was shooting Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) at the same time and, according to actress [?] Koo Stark: "Operated by remote control, R2-D2 had to trundle off camera and disappear behind a sand dune. But the remote control failed to stop the robot and he wandered onto the set of Jesus of Nazareth."
  • The eye make-up for Robert Powell consisted of a thin line of dark blue eyeliner on the upper lid of the eye, and a thin line of white eyeliner on the lower lid. This had the effect of highlighting the piercing blue of his eyes, thus giving him a penetrating stare, when combined with very little blinking, made the character appear surreal and supernatural.
  • His role as the blind man was the final role for Italian comedy star [?] Renato Rascel.
  • The character of "Zerah " played by Ian Holm is entirely fictional created purely for dramatic reasons.
  • [?] Celia Johnson was originally considered for Herodias.
  • At $14 million this was the most expensive movie ever made for television up to that point.