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Trivia / The Last Temptation of Christ

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  • Banned in China:
    • Was banned in a number of countries on its original release. In Latin America it was targeted because it was perceived as a direct attack on the Catholic Church, who, in the 1980s, had a strong moral authority almost on par with the federal government in those countries. The bans weren't lifted until nearly two decades later in some cases. It finally got shown in Colombia in 2001, Chile in 2003 and Mexico in 2004. It's still banned in The Philippines and Singapore.
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    • A few American cities tried to take legal action against the film in 1988. Pensacola, Florida actually passed a resolution making it illegal to show it in the city. A theater scheduled it anyway. A federal judge nullified the resolution hours before the first screening. A studio representative had actually made a Run for the Border (to the next county) with the film reels until getting word that the screening was happening.
  • Creator Cameo: Martin Scorsese appears briefly as Isaiah, the prophet. He also provides (part of) the voice of Satan.note 
  • Doing It for the Art: This was a labour of love for Scorsese, who wanted to make a Jesus film since the 1970s.
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  • Dueling Works: Ironically became one with The Passion of the Christ when it had its belated 2004 release in Mexico. Last Temptation did surprisingly good business, and it's been speculated it might've been because some people mistakenly thought it was the Gibson film.
  • He Also Did: Zebedee is played by director Irvin Kershner, most famous for The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Playing Against Type: Willem Dafoe as Jesus. Ironically, one of the canards about the film during the pre-release protests was that it portrayed Jesus as a "wimp". That Dafoe was certainly not the actor you'd want to cast if you really did want to have a wimpy Jesus obviously didn't occur to those people.
  • Release Date Change: Universal moved up the release date to take advantage of the publicity surrounding the picture.
  • Throw It In!: The trippy light show immediately after Jesus' death was a result of the camera breaking and the light ruining the rest of the film, a genuine mistake.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Sidney Lumet made plans to adapt the novel around 1971, but dropped them because he had problems finding a decent script.
    • Scorsese had long wanted to make a film about Jesus, and after being introduced to the novel in The '70s this became his dream project, but the combined controversial and uncommercial aspects of the film meant that it spent a long time in Development Hell. At various points, Robert De Niro, David Carradine, John Malkovich and Jonathan Pryce were under discussion to play Jesus. Eric Roberts auditioned and Scorsese liked him, but he took himself out of the running.
    • Paramount greenlighted it in 1983, initially with a $14 million budget (later reduced in half). Locations were secured in Israel, sets were constructed, and the cast was finalized. When Paramount disliked Scorsese's choice for Jesus, Christopher Walken, Scorsese gave the role to Aidan Quinn instead. David Bowie auditioned for Pontius Pilate but Scorsese chose Sting. But due to religious controversy and financial worries, the studio pulled the plug a month before filming was scheduled to start (they told Scorsese they were backing out two days before Christmas). The costumes and props ended up getting used for King David instead. When Scorsese finally got to make the film, Quinn didn't returnnote , but most of the rest of the cast (notably Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey and Harry Dean Stanton) did. When Sting couldn't back out of his music commitments, Bowie took over as Pilate.
    • Paramount's treatment of the film turned out to have a major ripple effect on much of modern Hollywood history. How? Paramount halted production mainly because its parent company Gulf+Western got nervous about the project. This became the most blatant example of G+W's Executive Meddling in the studio's business, which had been frustrating the top brass at Paramount for a while. Within a few months, three top executives left Paramount: Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg went to Disney, Barry Diller went to Fox. All three revitalized their new employers and oversaw important projects. Everything from Beauty and the Beast to Pulp Fiction to The Simpsons owe their existence to that 1984 Paramount shakeup, in which Last Temptation played a huge role.
    • Jeff Bridges was a big fan of the book and when he heard it was being made into a film he actively sought out the part of Judas, even writing a personal letter to Martin Scorsese. Mel Gibson was also considered for Jesus. He'd later make his own Christ film.
    • Christopher Lloyd turned down a role as one of the Disciples, a decision he later regretted.
    • Kim Basinger and Sally Field were offered the role of Mary Magdalene. Basinger turned it down and Field was pregnant.
    • David Bowie was advised to give Pontius Pilate a Scottish accent, since some historians believe Pilate was from Scotland, but he refused.
    • Scorsese originally wanted Steve Buscemi to play James.
    • The original script had the Satanic angel in the final part of the film as a young Arab boy. For the aborted Paramount version, Scorsese changed the angel to an old man, and cast Lew Ayres in the role (with Hume Cronyn also under strong consideration).
    • Paul Schrader's writing contract also gave him right-of-first-refusal to direct the film if Scorsese decided not to make it. During the hiatus between the Paramount and Universal phases, Schrader felt that Scorsese wasn't pushing hard enough for the film and invoked this clause, which led to one of the periodic flare-ups between the two Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Working Title: A fake one. To lessen the amount of scrutiny on the production, Scorsese filmed it under the title of The Passion. Peter Gabriel's score was later released as an album called Passion.


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