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posted: 3/8/2014 5:43 AM

A look at actors who have played Jesus in movies

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  • Willem Dafoe portrays Jesus Christ in Martin Scorsese's 1988 film, "The Last Temptation of Christ."

    Willem Dafoe portrays Jesus Christ in Martin Scorsese's 1988 film, "The Last Temptation of Christ."
    Associated Press/Universal Pictures

  • Jim Caviezel plays Jesus Christ in "The Passion of the Christ."

    Jim Caviezel plays Jesus Christ in "The Passion of the Christ."
    Associated Press/Marquis Films Ltd.

  • Diogo Morgado stars as Jesus in "Son of God."

    Diogo Morgado stars as Jesus in "Son of God."
    Associated Press/20th Century Fox

 
By Jocelyn Noveck
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Casting Jesus for the silver screen has always been tricky. Directors must balance the actor's ability to project a sense of both divinity and humanity. They also need to sell tickets, and thus have often cast handsome, leading-man types.

In the new movie "Son of God," Jesus is played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado, whose appearance has been compared to Brad Pitt and a young Marlon Brando, and who has inspired a Twitter hashtag of "Hot Jesus." Box office is booming: "Son of God," which was made from footage shot for the History channel miniseries "The Bible," came in a close second last weekend to the latest Liam Neeson action blockbuster, and beat out the popular "Lego" movie.

Here are some of the actors who have played Jesus over the decades:

H.B. Warner, "The King of Kings," director Cecil B. DeMille, 1927. This famous silent movie was in black and white, but the final scene, the Resurrection, was in Technicolor.

Claude Heater, "Ben-Hur," director William Wyler, 1959. Heater's face was not shown in the film; all we saw was the back of his head.

Jeffrey Hunter, "King of Kings," director Nicholas Ray, 1961. This film was nicknamed "I was a Teenage Jesus" because of Hunter's youthful teen-idol looks, but actually he was in his 30s.

Max von Sydow, "The Greatest Story Ever Told," director George Stevens, 1965. Director Stevens cast the admired Swedish actor as Jesus and surrounded him with Hollywood actors like John Wayne, who had one line: "Truly this man was the son of God."

Ted Neeley, "Jesus Christ Superstar," director Norman Jewison, 1973. Neeley became the "rock star Jesus" as the star of Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera on both stage and screen.

Victor Garber, "Godspell," director David Greene, 1973. A musical retelling of the New Testament's Gospel of Matthew with a score by Stephen Schwartz.

Willem Dafoe, "The Last Temptation of Christ," director Martin Scorsese, 1988. The film was one of the few to present a Jesus conflicted about his identity and vulnerable to earthly temptations.

Jim Caviezel, "The Passion of Christ," director Mel Gibson, 2004. One of the most controversial movies ever made, due both to its graphic depiction of Jesus' crucifixion and to allegations of anti-Semitic content.

Diogo Morgado, "Son of God," director Christopher Spencer, 2014.

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