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Why Jesus Christ Is Superstar

Eight different ways the Son Of God has been represented in pop culture
by Rampador Alindog | Apr 14, 2017
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We all grew up weaned on the idea of a Caucasian Jesus.

We can't have it any other way. From books to posters, down to the way the icons have been carved for centuries, everything points to a tall, fair-skinned, long-haired guy with angelic eyes, high cheek bones, a regal nose, and an bushy hipster beard.

Anybody with half a brain will argue that nobody like that could've come out of Nazareth during that time, but, of course, that would be blasphemy.

Adding to the confusion is the way Hollywood has portrayed Jesus Christ through the years.

Jeffrey Huntery
King of Kings (1961)

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Rebel Without a Cause director Nicholas Ray cast the young and good-looking thespian to play the carpenter John's son, and to this day, Hunter is considered the most handsome Jesus Christ ever. Just check out those eyes—any girl would gladly get lost in them. 

Unfortunately, he would die young at 42 falling down the stairs at his home. It's safe to assume he got a VIP pass into heaven. 

Max von Sydow
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

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Who would've thought the actor who portrayed the Three-eyed Raven from HBO's hit series Game of Thrones was actually young and good-looking enough to play Jesus, once upon a time?

But there it was.

Asked about his portrayal, Von Sydow said he only tried his best to portray Jesus as a man and not a god. A smart move worthy of, ehem, praise. 

Ted Neeley
Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

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During the height of hippie counter-culture, Jesus was played by Neeley, looking like an emaciated drug-addled rocker.

Note that he also played the title role in The Who's Tommy, a rock musical written by Pete Townshend. He originally auditioned for the role of Judas, deeming it more interesting. But, obviously, director Norman Jewison, had ideas of his own.

Nowadays, Neeley is still busy headlining the Jesus Christ Superstar Tour.

Robert Powell
Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

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Without regard to historical or ethnographic accuracy, but with a keen eye for satisfying popular perception of Jesus as held by the American public, director Franco Zeffirelli made the casting decision on the film's lead.

Both Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino were reportedly considered for the role, but Powell beat them both simply because producer Lew Grade's wife, Kathie Moody, thought Powell possessed the most wonderful blue eyes she had ever seen.

His image as Jesus has since become an often-used image in popular devotional art all over the world.

Willem Dafoe
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Martin Scorsese had wanted to make a film version of Jesus' life since childhood.

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When he finally had the chance, he cast Dafoe as Jesus, a far better alternative to his first choice, Aidan Quinn.

Not that many enjoyed his performance of a very human Jesus, who at one point, was actually depicted fornicating with Mary Magdalene.

Mother Angelica, a Catholic nun and founder of Eternal Word Television Network, described Scorsese's opus as "the most blasphemous ridicule of the Eucharist that's ever been perpetrated in this world."

Some countries, including Greece, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, the Philippines, and Singapore, banned or censored the film.

Jim Caviezel
The Passion of Christ (2004)

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Considered the most gruesome of Jesus films, Mel Gibson's visual masterpiece had the actor suffering many real injuries during the course of filming.

He didn't know what he was signing up for during auditions, with Gibson initially telling him that they were shooting a surfing movie.

And what a wave it was.

During the shooting of the film, the 35-year-old actor dislocated his shoulder, battled hypothermia, suffered a lung infection and pneumonia, endured eight-hour makeup sessions that left him with severe headaches and skin infections, and was even struck by lightning. Miraculous or hellish? See the film and decide for yourself.  

Matt Ranillo III
Kristo (1996)

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Around these parts, there is only one actor recognized as Jesus—the father of former FHM cover girl Krista Ranillo, of course.

Ben Yalung thought Ranillo was a perfect fit for the part, even if he wasn't capable of growing a real beard despite praying to the saints. To make up for it, the director simply slapped some fake facial hair on the actor's face, resulting in the most ridiculous looking beard in film ever. 

Buddy Christ
Dogma (1999)

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Count on Kevin Smith to create a Jesus that would appeal to happy-go-lucky stoners. Hey, it's a Christ who's friendly, approving, and above all else, approachable—qualities that can't be found in even the most upstanding Catholics.


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