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The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) Poster

Trivia

Telly Savalas shaved his head bald for his role as Pontius Pilate. He kept his head shaved for the rest of his life.
Being a perfectionist, George Stevens did many takes of John Wayne's single line, "Truly, this man was the son of God." A rumor has long persisted that at one stage Stevens pleaded with Wayne to show more emotion, an overwhelming sense of awe. During the next take, Wayne changed the line to, "Aw, truly this man was the son of God."
Max von Sydow said that the hardest part about playing Christ was the expectations people had of him to remain in character at all times. He couldn't smoke between takes, have a drink after work, or be affectionate with his wife on the set.
During filming, the first snowstorm to strike Arizona in decades buried the whole Jerusalem set. Several hundred cast and crew members, including director George Stevens, went out with snow shovels, wheelbarrows, bulldozers, and butane flame throwers to clear the snow from the set. Just as they were done, it snowed again, even harder than before - forcing the production to close and move to Desilu Studios in Hollywood.
During an interview on The Mike Douglas Show (1961), Jamie Farr related the story of how he was so desperate for work when he auditioned for the picture that he prayed to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, that he would get the job. He was ironically cast as the apostle Thaddeus, an alternate name for St. Jude (possibly used to avoid confusion with Judas Iscariot).
Final film of cinematographer William C. Mellor. He suffered a heart attack, collapsed and died on the set.
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.
Director George Stevens originally hired 550 Navajos from a local reservation to be Roman legionnaires, but they couldn't stay on the set for very long and eventually went back home to participate in a tribal election. Stevens replaced them with ROTC cadets.
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Final film of Claude Rains.
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Filming began in 1962 and was completed in 1963, but the movie went unreleased for another two years.
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While between his films Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), David Lean directed some interior scenes with Claude Rains and José Ferrer as a favor for George Stevens, who was bogged down with the production in Nevada. Jean Negulesco, meanwhile, directed the Nativity scene.
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Filming began using 3-strip Cinerama process. After three days of filming with the 3-strip camera, the production switched to 70mm Ultra Panavision 70.
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This film was slightly over 30 days in production using the original 3-panel Cinerama process when orders were given to abandon the Cinerama camera in favor of Ultra-Panavision 70; thus ending forever the cumbersome 3-panel Cinerama process in Hollywood. Numerous scenes had to be re-shot in the new single-lens Ultra-Panavision 70 process.
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Martin Landau has said in interviews that half of his part was deleted in the editing stage.
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Final film of Joseph Schildkraut. He died a year before the film was released.
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Jean Simmons was initially announced to portray Mary Magdalene.
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Max von Sydow, Telly Savalas, and Donald Pleasence all went on to play Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond series. In fact, the only person to play Blofeld and not star in this film would be Charles Gray.
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George Stevens originally wanted Richard Burton to play Jesus.
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Two members of the film's crew - art director David S. Hall and cinematographer William C. Mellor - received posthumous Oscar nominations for this film, their last credit work. Mellon won the award.
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Alec Guinness was sought for a cameo.
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Final film of art director David S. Hall.
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