Trivia / The Greatest Story Ever Told


  • Actor Allusion: According to the Medved Brothers' The Hollywood Hall of Shame (a book on expensive box-office disappointments, which this film was), when the project was announced Charlton Heston's fans clamored for him to be cast as Jesus, given his Biblical epic reputation he was cast as John the Baptist instead.
  • All-Star Cast:
  • Backed by the Pentagon: George Stevens originally hired 550 Navajos from a local reservation to be Roman legionnaires, but they could not stay on the set for very long and eventually went back home to participate in a tribal election. Stevens replaced them with Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets.
  • California Doubling: Shot in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. The area standing in for the Jordan River is now a reservoir.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Telly Savalas shaved his head bald for his role as Pontius Pilate. He kept his head shaved for the rest of his life.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Joanna Dunham, who played Mary Magdalene, became pregnant during filming. The director worked around this by shooting her from the chest up as much as possible, making her later scenes markedly unlike the earlier ones.
  • The Shelf of Movie Languishment: Filming began in 1962 and was completed in 1963, but the movie went unreleased for another two years.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Alec Guinness was sought for a cameo.
    • George Stevens originally offered Elizabeth Taylor the part of Mary Magdalene but she declined due to scheduling difficulties.
    • Speaking of, Richard Burton was offered the role of Jesus. Really.
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