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Q: Robert Powell's life and the making of "Jesus of Nazareth" ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Robert Powell's life and the making of "Jesus of Nazareth"
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Celebrities
Asked by: lor3-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 13 Sep 2003 11:21 PDT
Expires: 13 Oct 2003 11:21 PDT
Question ID: 255465
Biography of Briish actor, Robert Powell and
description of the making of the film, "Jesus of Nazareth", in which
he played Jesus, in particular his input on this remarkable film. 
Please tell me everything you can about this wonderful actor and film.
Subject: Re: Robert Powell's life and the making of "Jesus of Nazareth"
Answered By: missy-ga on 13 Sep 2003 19:42 PDT
Actor Robert Powell (born 01 June 1944, in Salford, Lancashire,
Manchester) began his acting career in 1964 at the age of 20. 
Originally intending to earn his law degree from the University of
Manchester, Mr. Powell became interested in theater after earning a
role in a student produced play.  His performance so enchanted the
director, that he beseeched Mr. Powell to consider a career in
theater.  Apparently, Mr. Powell found the idea acceptable, first
joining a repertory company in the Midlands before moving to London in
1965 to pursue a theatrical career.

He landed his first film role - an uncredited one - as a Delta Tarin
Guard in 1967's "Robbery", followed in 1969 by the role of Mullvaney
in "Walk a Crooked Line" and a role alongside Michael Caine as a
burglar in "The Italian Job".

In 1970, he took a role in the UK's cult classic "Doomwatch", playing
the role of Toby Wren to great viewer acclaim.  Fans of the show were
absolutely outraged when his character was unexpectedly killed off at
the end of the first season.

In the ensuing years, Mr. Powell made many television and movie
appearances, including the BBC's serial adaptation of Thomas Hardy's
"Jude the Obscure", as troubled composer Gustav Mahler in 1974's
"Mahler", as Group-Captain Walker in the Who's 1975 rock opera,
"Tommy", before landing the title role in Franco Zeffirelli's landmark
epic, "Jesus of Nazareth" (in which he had originally been cast as
Judas Iscariot!).

Before filming commenced, Mr. Powell married his live-in girlfriend of
2 years, Barbara (Babs) Lord, on August 29th, 1975, in Goostrey Parish
Church, Goostrey, near Jodrell Bank in Cheshire.  Miss Lord,  a dancer
and member of "Pan's People" - the troupe on the BBC's much loved "Top
of the Pops" - had met Mr. Powell on the set of "Top of the Pops" in
1973, as his star was continuing its rapid ascent, and lore has it
that it was a true case of love at first sight.  (They are the proud
and happy parents of son Barney (b. 1977) and daughter Kate (b. 1979)

Though rumor of the time - purportedly started by UK magazine "Private
Eye" - indicated that Mr. Powell and Miss Lord wed under pressure from
producer Sir Lew Grae, Mr. Powell insists the rumor was rubbish. 
According to the rumor, Sir Lew insisted that no movie audience would
accept an actor who had been "living in sin" as Jesus Christ, and
offered a substantial sum as a wedding gift if they couple wed "for
the sake of moral standards", Mr. Powell says the wedding was all his
idea, and he proposed quite willingly:

"No pressure. Good grief! Suddenly, I was about to disappear to Africa
for nine months filming and that sparked it off, my wanting to make it
secure before I went away."

Powell And Glory
Mary Greene
Daily Mail Weekend
Saturday 2nd March 2002
Reproduced here:


Oh his role as Jesus of Nazareth, arguably one of Zeffirelli's finest
films, Powell has had plenty to say over the years:

"I asked what his first thoughts had been when he heard he had been
given the role of Christ. He laughed. "I wished they hadn't asked me,"
he said. "But, having been asked, I couldn't possibly have turned it

"I was apprehensive. You see, with any other role one has a chance to
turn in a faultless performance. With this particular one I knew there
was no chance at all. A man can't play a god."

"Aside from your misgivings," I asked, "did you enjoy playing the

"No," came the short, sharp answer. "That's a question not many people
ask and I'm glad you did because it's important. It was the hardest
thing I've ever done. It was also the most physically exhausting. I
lost a stone during the filming. There is no other part where in every
scene you are it. There's no other part where I've had to learn seven
foolscap sheets of script every day and there's no other part where
I've been unable to use any of my own personality.

"For example, if I arrived on the set one day feeling a bit irritable
or fed up, normally I could use those emotions, but with Jesus I
couldn't. But, although I didn't enjoy it, I don't regret having done

"Of course," he added, "now that I've seen it, I would like to do it
all over again - and do it better."

Excerpted from:
'I feel like I'm king of the remakes'
Robert Powell tells Dave Badge
Film Review Vol.28 N 4 April 1978
Reproduced here:

"But playing Jesus had no more lasting effet on his psyche than
playing Richard Hannay in the remake of The 39 steps, he insists.

"I don't mean it was unimportant", he smiles. "It was seminal in
beginning another phase of my career. When I did Jesus I had been at
the sharp end of film and television for seven or eight years;  so I
was not an unknown actor. What it did was turn my career in a
different direction by making me internationally known."

Excerpted from:
Powell and the Glory:  Profile Robert Powell by Gillian Glover

"'Thank God Babs was there,' Powell says of the long months he spent
filming Jesus Of Nazareth in Morocco and Tunisia. It was a
star-studded cast: Lord Olivier as Nicodemus, Ralph Richardson
(Simeon), Peter Ustinov (King Herod), Anne Bancroft (Mary Magdalen)
not to mention James Mason, Anthony Quinn, Christopher Plummer, and
Ian McShane as Judas. 'But it was an extraordinarily boring experience
for most of the actors,' he admits, as they spent weeks on stand-by
awaiting dramatic weather effects for their scenes. Then there was the
food and Tunisian wine. The camera crew's joke was to beg Powell,
please, to change it back into water.

Deliberately, he says, he tried to avoid being emotionally moved by
the part. He wasn't a religious man, and still isn't. 'Particularly
when I was on the cross, it was incredibly cold. And rather than bring
me down between the shots, they left me up there, gave me a dressing
gown and a pair of slippers, and my wife would hand me a cigarette. In
fact, it got so cold I think I was handed a brandy too.'

Almost despite himself, though, there were moments when he was
touched, particularly filming the Sermon on the Mount. 'There were
several thousand extras, shafts of the setting sun over the hill. I
saw these thousands of upturned faces who I don't think could
understand me because they were Moroccan. I thought I'll pitch it to
them, so I raised my voice and, across the valley, I could hear it
coming back and so could everybody else. And it just had a very eerie
effect. The crew were all in floods of tears. It was as if one had
been slightly touched by an external force.' Jesus Of Nazareth never
made Powell a rich man, he was paid a flat fee of 20,000 for nine
months work and not a ha'penny more for repeats all over the world.
And he wasn't tempted by a business offer to market Jesus sandals and
jeans: 'Good god, no. I wanted another 50 years of being an actor. If
you capitalise on things like that, who's going to take you

Excerpted from:
Powell And Glory
Mary Greene
Daily Mail Weekend
Saturday 2nd March 2002
Reproduced here:

"I looked in the mirror and realised I was looking at the image of
Jesus I had retained from my childhood. It was the image English
people recognise as Christ: Holman Hunt's Light Of The World. Except I
wasn't blonde. But my silhouette could only have been of one man -
Christ. It was extraordinary."

The film was shot in Morocco and Tunisia. Laurence Olivier, Rod
Steiger, James Mason, Anne Bancroft were co-stars. It appeared - six
compendious hours of it - to respectful approval. "The secret to the
success of the film is down to the fact that it's not idiosyncratic.
We were trying to reach thousands of people, all with the same image,"
says Powell. "But the 10,000 letters I got from viewers all said the
same thing: 'It's exactly how I imagined Him.' That's because I did
nothing. It's a blank canvas on which the audience paint their own
image and think their own thoughts. Which is why I was angry with
Dennis Potter."


"At first, Powell says, he tried to make Jesus sparkier, more of an
individual. He stopped when he realised that "the more I made him a
man, the less I made him divine". Didn't Olivier give him any tips on
how to act the part? "Yes, he gave me the best note I have ever had. I
was doing the 'spirit is willing - pause - but the flesh is weak'
line. He said: 'Bobsy, do you mind if I say something? Never pause if
the audience know what you are going to say next.'" On another
occasion, the director asked Powell to shout "I am" when Jesus is
asked if he is truly the son of the living God. He duly yelled. After
the take, Olivier opined: "Bobsy, I think Jesus would have been
quietly proud of being the son of God, don't you?" If one experience
from playing Jesus - aside from the hell of the crucifixion - is
seared into Powell's mind it was hearing his own voice echoing off the
mountains during the Sermon On The Mount and actually listening to the
words - "There was me, the extras and crew in a flood of tears, rapt
at what is, I am convinced, the most profound piece of writing in

Excerpted from:
Meet The Messiah
The Express(UK)
1 April 2000

Since playing the role that made him infamous, Mr. Powell has won
numerous awards, including:

-- Best Actor - TV Times - for Jesus of Nazareth
-- Best Actor - Italian TV Times - for Jesus of Nazareth
-- International Arts Prize - Fiuggi Film Festival - for Jesus of
-- Grand prize - Saint-Vincent Film Festival - for Jesus of Nazareth
-- Best Actor - Paris Film Festival, 1980 - for Harlequin
-- Best Actor - Venice Film Festival, 1982 - for Imperativ

Though he never returned to Manchester University to complete his law
degree, he was awarded an honorary MA by the Salford University in the
late 1990's, where he currently serves as patron and professional
advisor to the university's School of Media, Music & Performance.  In
October of 2001, the university dedicated The Robert Powell Theater in
his honor.

Mr. Powell is still married to Babs Lord, and currently is involved in
a number of charities, and has an avid interest in yachting.  He
completed a leg of the 2001 BT Yacht Challenge with fellow Brit Jeremy
Irons, while his wife completed the entire race!

He can currently be seen in the televison sitcom "The Detectives",
shown on TV's Bravo network, and has also narrated a number of
documentaries, including "Bonnie and Clyde", for the Biography

With respect to the making of the film "Jesus of Nazareth", very
little "behind the scenes" information is available:

-- The film is a remake of Cecil B. DeMille's 1928 classic
-- Filming took place over 9 months in Morocco and Tunisia.  Most of
the extras were locals.
-- The film's budget was $25 million, a sum considered extravagant in
its day.
-- Franco Zeffirelli's original choice for Jesus was Al Pacino!
-- Originally cast as Judas Iscariot, it's said that when Franco
Zeffirelli looked into Robert Powell's eyes, he knew that he was
better suited for the role of Jesus.  Mr. Powell accepted, and later
received more than 10,000 letters from viewers telling him that he was
"exactly the way I thought Jesus would be".
-- The film recieved two Emmy award nominations in 1978 -  Outstanding
Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Special for
James Farentino () and Outstanding Special - Drama or Comedy.
-- The Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists awarded Jesus of
Nazareth the Silver Ribbon for Best Cinematography (Armando Nannuzzi),
Best Costume Design (Lucia Mirisola) and Best Production Design (Lucia
-- The original score was composed by Maurice Jarre, and performed by
The National Philharmonic Orchestra.

You can view the trailers here, courtesy of the Internet Movie

Jesus of Nazareth (1977) - Trailers

When composing your answer, I used - in addition to the articles
excerpted above - the following internet sources:

The Unofficial Robert Powell Site (In French, Spanish and English)

Jesus of Nazareth

Unofficial Robert Powell Site

Robert Powell - Yahoo Movies

Robert Powell - IMDB

Jesus of Nazareth - IMDB

The Robert Powell Gallery

TV Tome - Robert Powell

Robert Powell - The Wikipedia

Robert Powell Filmography

Allerton Building (Robert Powell Theater)

School of Music, Media and Performance - Salford University

What a Performance! - Salford People Magazine
January, 2002

Making of the Grade

Awards for Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

I hope this is what you're looking for!  If I can be of further
assistance, please just ask for clarification.  I'll be happy to help!


Search terms:  [ "Robert Powell" ], [ "Robert Powell" awards ], [
"Robert Powell" "Salford University" ], [ making of Jesus of Nazareth
Subject: Re: Robert Powell's life and the making of "Jesus of Nazareth"
From: pinkfreud-ga on 13 Sep 2003 13:29 PDT
Here's an interesting article:
Subject: Re: Robert Powell's life and the making of "Jesus of Nazareth"
From: bowler-ga on 13 Sep 2003 13:46 PDT

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