Monday, January 17, 2011


OK, my readers (if I have any!) should be asking “Why this blog don’t talk about Jesus of Nazareth?”. OK, I’m coming. I must confess that this was the last role in which I would have expected to find my idol! Let’s say that I could hardly imagine Jesus with curly hair!
So, when Jesus of Nazareth was scheduled on tv, I wasn’t that eager to watch it, let’s just say I don’t like that kind of religious stuff. I just wanted to check the credits if Robert was there and OH MY! He was there! And playing the lead, playing Jesus!!! My jaw dropped so much that since that day I can’t bite my nails anymore.
And when I saw him like this I screamed "My God!!"

Like most of you I found that Robert’s performance was marvelous, well all the adjectives to define that it was perfect! Just like one imagined Jesus. And I was very happy as finally I had found a film that most people have seen! However, as a fan I really find it worrying the amount of religious fanatics that are unable to make the difference between Robert the actor and Jesus. They are a bit scary!
So all of you know the legend about Robert’s casting (he was going to play Judas, he “beated” Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman who were the other choice for Zefirelli). There are a lot of things that have been said about him and his performance, some of them extremely irritating, some other surprising, some other awfully funny. I’ll present some of them here :
  • The curse
Stupid people like to say that the role is cursed and that’s why the actors who have played Jesus will never meet fame or will never act again. FALSE! I don’t know why before the upcoming of the Internet, people liked to fantasize about Robert and Jesus of Nazareth : some people have said that he killed himself after playing Jesus, or that he joined a monastery, or that he became crazy! And then, when they discovered this was false, people started to say that he never played again, or that never “made it” (I even read the word mediocre in an article!).
To those comments, I would like to point out that Robert indeed “made it” as he is still acting in Holby City (OK, it’s not the best tv series, but he got late to the casting of Dr House! -that's a joke of course!). He is an excellent actor and has never been involved in scandals and seems to be happy! Well, to me that's real success!
But about this "curse" of playing Jesus, let’s hear Robert’s point of view :
Excerpt from the article “Robert Powell The man chosen to portray Jesus talks to Sue Clarke about his most demanding role” Photoplay Film Monthly, November 1975 Vol 26 N° 11
[...] The potential success that an international TV series might bring him leaves Robert unmoved. He’s been told too many times how a role is going to “make him a star”.
“From an actor’s point of view, there are two good points about playing Christ in this TV series. First, there will be very few people who won’t know who I am, which has always been a problem in America. People don’t know my work over there. I have had more response from Tommy – where I did five minutes work and don’t even speak! – than anything I’ve done. I was flown to New York for a screen test on the strength of that. Didn’t get the part though!
“The second thing is that if I was 21 and offered ‘Christ’ and no one knew me, I think I would be finished. I’d have to wait ten years for a career. But I’ve been around for a while (he’s 31) and people do know I do other things. [...]
---  I'd love to know which was the film for which he did the screen test! About the other comment, well dear Robert, don't you think that a 21-year-old Jesus is TOO young?? 
Robert in his early 20s, a bit too young for Jesus.

  • The Jesus diet
I like to read interviews in old magazines and discover a lot of details. The two excerpts below concern how did he prepare physically for the role (taken from “Robert Powell : How portraying Christ changed his life” by James Barclay, Movie Stars magazine, May 1977)
[...] “Theoretically, the Crucifixion was not supposed to be a difficult scene for me. But I was slightly nervous, nevertheless, perhaps due to the fact I’d literally starved myself on a diet of cheese for 12 days before the shooting, in order to look worn. [...]
[…] To keep in shape, Robert has been practicing his tennis on the hotel court. Fortunately for his lean, gaunt image in The Life of Jesus, he hasn’t been able to whip up one of his “angel pies” – made with meringue and fresh lemon topping – while on location. “I’m not such a bad cook when I get down to it.” He said modestly. [...]
--- Mhh! I'd like to taste one of these angel pies! I loooove lemon pies!! About the cheese diet, it reminds me of The Devil wears Prada where the other assistant is on a cheese diet too to look thin for the Fashion week in Paris.
Well, about Jesus of Nazareth I have a lot of things to tell, but they will be the object of further posts.
Thanks for reading.


Irene said...

What a fantastic performance - DIVINE, indeed. Both inside and outside. I couldn't find words enough beautiful for it.

Anonymous said...

Zeffirelli's film Jesus of Nazareth is a remarkable "work of art" - great director, great performers. As the rest of it is concerned, I think you should not consider it from a "religious point of view", but rather from a spiritual one. That is, something that is able to be spiritually touching. This might have been what they had in mind whilefilming Jesus of Nazareth: convey emotions able to somehow touch everybody's spiritual dimension, no matter what their personal creed or religion or ideas are. I remember that the American actor and singer Ted Neeley, who played Jesus in the well known rock opera and film Jesus Christ Superstar had problems with some people, "fans", who wanted to meet him after his performances of this role in theatres because they were unable to separate the actor from his role on stage. So what would the Italian actress Rosalinda Celentano say if people began to think she's Satan? ; ) When we watch a movie, we should focus on its message, on the actor's good performances and, if it is the case, on a positive way to express spiritual energy and emotions - I think this is what Zeffirelli had in mind.