The solar eclipse that takes place during the crucifixion scene was the real thing, an event for which director Richard Fleischer delayed shooting in order to capture the ethereal nature of the phenomenon on 15 February 1961.
Anthony Quinn was appearing on Broadway in "Becket" (as King Henry II) when he was approached to appear in this film. Producer Dino De Laurentiis had to buy up his Broadway contract to secure his release from the play - something Quinn was anxious for him to do, as he greatly disliked his co-star, Laurence Olivier. After Quinn had departed, Olivier continued in the play, but took over Quinn's part instead of continuing in the title role.
While on location in Italy Anthony Quinn met Iolanda Addolari, a costumer on the film. They began a romance, and she gave birth to two of his sons. In 1966, when she was pregnant with their third child, they married.
As a follow up with producer Dino De Laurentiis, Richard Fleischer planned to make the Sacco and Vanzetti story, but it failed to get off the ground. Fleischer sued Dino but they had made up by 1974 when Fleischer directed " Mandingo" for the Italian producer.
First cinema movie collaboration of actors Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Quinn. The films were: Barabbas (1961), Jesus of Nazareth (1977), and High Risk (1981). The three pictures were all made in different decades: the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s. The first and last of the joint ventures were made and released around twenty years apart.