The cast of Jesus Christ Superstar during it's 4+-year tour.
Photo courtesy of Debbie Spykerman (




I can't say enough about Norman Jewison's BEAUTIFUL 1973 film of Jesus Christ Superstar. It brought Ted and Company to our attention, and has left a lasting statement to what ALW's material can be at its' best. On these pages you will find publicity articles and shots, film stills, and, on this page, a few things of interest having to do with the film itself. ENJOY!!!

You can find specific pages for the media shots and film stills at the following links:





UPDATE 6/27/16 (From Ted and Ted's Facebook Page)



UPDATE 1/8/16 (From Ted and Ted's Facebook Page)


UPDATE 12/11/15 (From Ted and Ted's Facebook Page)

In a Facebook and update on 9/18/15, Ted has announced that there is a new documentary on the making of Norman Jewison's BRILLIANT 1973 film of Jesus Christ Superstar, and the cast/director reunion that happened this past April 27-28 at The Beekman Theatre in NYC. It is due to ship December 1, and the cost is only $25! See details below! ENJOY!

Pre-order at this link:




Norman Jewison's BRILLIANT 1973 film of Jesus Christ Superstar has now been released in a special edition widescreen DVD with commentary by Ted and Norman Jewison included! Below is a shot of the DVD cover, some links to purchase it for lower prices and the commentary transcribed! ENJOY!


Laura Dacosta ( from DaGirLS) found this info - thanks Laura:


     Courtesy of (, the latest info on this Special Edition DVD that we've been waiting for! 
     This DVD includes an interview/commentary with Ted and Norman Jewison.  Here's the Amazon UR to order: 


 Courtesy of Helena (, here is another link to order the new Special Edition
     JCS DVD, with the Ted Neeley/Norman Jewison interview/commentary.



(Joblo's Movie Emporium)  Coolness #3

     Mianne ( found the DVD at Empire for $8.99+ S&H:


Lynne Freels (a.k.a. Moose) (  found the best deal on the DVD so far"

$9.35 - WITH FREE SHIPPING at Deep


Susan (Beachie) Kern ( found a great review of the new DVD here:  


UPDATE: 9/3/04:

Lynne Freels (a.k.a. Moose) ( has graciously allowed me to post her DVD Spoilers e-mail here, for anyone for has not seen it on the list, and/or has not heard the DVD yet.  Thanks Lynne: 

I couldn't wait for the slow boat from Antarctica to arrive with my c
opy of the special edition; so, like Beach Susan, I rented it.

I dislike surprises; so, for those of you who are unsure of whether or not you should purchase this special edition, here are my thoughts.


Firstly, and this comment is not a spoiler, there is a photos section that contains some magnificent stills from the productions of shots and angles I've never seen before. Just beautiful.

Next, Ted and Norman (Jewison, the Director) comment together. They are both genuine in the expression of their memories regarding the making of this film.




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I was surprised at Ted's speaking voice. It's not quite what I imagined, but it's very pleasant to listen to. He speaks very softly, and his Texas accent emerges more when he's emotionally moved by something (whether it's a sad or humorous reminiscence). This accent is in contrast to Norman's Toronto, Canada accent ('aboot', and other slight Irish sounding words. No quintessential "eh", though).


It's interesting to note that, in addition to directing "Fiddler on the Roof", Norman had prior experience directing musical television (such as "The Judy Garland Show", amongst others. I love her voice, too).


Ted states that, when he heard that Norman was casting for the movie, he asked Norman to come see him perform in "Tommy". Norman obliged, driving from Los Angeles to someplace in Arizona (like driving from Edinburgh to Inverness in Scotland), only to discover that Ted wasn't performing that night. Ted explained that he had had a small accident that afternoon, and wasn't informed that Norman was enroute to see him.


There's been a lot of speculation by critics regarding the casting of Carl, an African-American, in the role of Judas. In Canada, especially during the time of the casting, there was no racial conflict; however, we were aware - via the media - of that problem in the States. Thus, Norman expressed to Carl his concern about racial condemnation by Americans. Carl asked him why he was chosen as Judas. When Norman replied, "Because of your talent", then Carl told the Director not to worry about how Americans would perceive his casting choice.


Relative to this, Ted recalled that, after a day of shooting the film, he and Carl would wind down by analyzing their characters. They were both raised in a Southern Baptist type of atmosphere; so, they knew the Bible backward and forward. However, they recognized the need (according to the libretto) to get away from these characters' divinity. They did that by pouring over the book "The Last Temptation of Christ": a still controversial story that also portrayed a deep friendship between Jesus and Judas. Remember, the humanity of Biblical characters had never been dealt with in film before; so, there was not much from which to cull inspiration. "Last Temptation ..." wasn't made into a film until 1988.


Their efforts were successful, judging by Ted's pleased comments regarding the fanbase and what he's heard from people like us. He pointed out that it was specifically Norman Jewison's vision that had a similar profound impact on his life as that of some of the fans with whom he's had the "pleasure of discussion".


Norman states that he constantly worried about people injuring themselves as they crawled around ruins and hills without any safety device. For instance, Ted was sitting in front of the camera during the filming of Judas' suicide when the rope broke. Happily, Ted moved fast and caught Carl before he fell over the edge of the tall cliff that you see in the pan-back shot (before it lowers to the setting of the Trial Before Pilate).


The worst accident occurred during the Trial scene, when one of choreographers fell off of the top of the amphitheatre. While he missed a large piece of equipment by inches, he broke his pelvis, collar bone, and leg.


Norman also had to hire extras for a few scenes. Ted related how he was almost truly crucified when the non-English speaking extra, who was playing the part of a Roman soldier, placed the nail on Ted's palm and was about to hammer it through skin and bone when Norman frantically yelled at the Arab to stop.


Regarding the crucifixion scene, they both elaborated a bit more on the coincidental weather change. That region had not had rain for years. When the cross was erected with Ted on it, a storm came upon the place very suddenly. Everyone ran for cover, and Ted was stuck there.


There was a curious silence from both of them during the death of Jesus scene (after he says, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit", and then his head lolls slowly forward as he dies). Norman asked Ted what he was feeling at this point. Ted responded that he was trying to hold back tears. He reiterated again, how grateful he was to Norman for allowing him to be a part of a truly life-changing experience; but, this is where the impact of Carl's death hit him hard. You can hear the profound sorrow and loss in his voice. You don't have to see him to witness the impact of what he's feeling. He states three times in the commentary, "I miss you, Carl". The third time he utters it, he's not saying it to us.


Upon first listening to how Ted expresses himself, the jaded audience member will wonder if anyone could truly be that humble with, what would seem in today's overly-cynical world, that much philanthropy. As you listen more and more to his exchange with Norman, you come to understand that this is not a persona - a defensive mask. This is a rare honest display of self. Thus, Ted can tell Norman that he's "holding back sobs"; whereas, most actors would lie disingenuously.


Most actors? Most people, especially men. In patriarchal societies, men are expected to control, hide, or deny their emotions (except anger). Now, everyone is not the same; but, the simple societal expectation has a huge impact on self-conduct/definition. As a result, they act most of the time, rarely acknowledging that part of themselves that defines them as human. No offense intended, guys. Women, too, end up acting in ways they think is expected of them. What results is an unhealthy, unfulfilled bunch of individuals.


I really admire Ted for such a courageous display of honesty.


UPDATE: 11/28/04:


Our Tedhead Family is a really amazing group of people.  Recently, we've had a few new members join from Spain and Peru, who don't read or speak English as well as they would like, so some of our list members got out the DVD and decided to help make things easier for them.  The result was a complete transcription of Ted and Norman's Commentary on the new JCS DVD.  I did a little fine-tuning on the transcription, but the initial work was initially done by: DaSusan (Horlick), Lynne (Freels), Mark (Ellison) and especially Von (Thompson) and Maria (Grazia), who, I believe, did the bulk of the work. FABULOUS JOB GUYS!!!:


Norman Jewison (N): Hi, my name is Norman Jewison and I�m the director of this film you�re about to see, �Jesus Christ Superstar�, and I�m sitting here with the young man who played Jesus, Mr. Ted Neeley.

Ted Neeley (T): Hello, hello, hello. That�s me and I�m proud to say that I love the idea that I�m sitting here with Norman , having an opportunity to share some of the experiences of this wonderful time in my life.  Look at that� the scaffolding.

N.: This film was made from a two-record album, an L.P., because in those days, in 1972, when the film was made, 32 years ago, there were no video-cassettes. It was made from a long-playing album and it was an opera that was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, in London , in England . And, the concept of it was ... we had in mind that we wanted to shoot it in Israel , where the story actually took place. So we went to the Holy Land, and the idea behind our approach to the screenplay was  - Melvin Bragg and I went � and we wandered around Israel with a walkman and really came up with the idea that we would have this itinerant group of young people, the cast, arrive in Israel and play it -  so here is the Cast!

T.: And you borrowed my bus, from my rock-n-roll tour, and I had it filled basically with rock-n-roll stuff, but you took all the rock-n-roll stuff out to make it look authentic, and put these wonderful folks in here ... look at Larry! And look at Yvonne! 

N.: This is Yvonne Elliman, who plays Mary.

T.: Oh, my goodness! Ha! Look at Josh!

N. That�s Joshua, Joshua Mostel

T. And Cliff, he was over there to see his girlfriend, remember? And you hired him to whip me! Look at Bob Bingham! Isn't he something? My goodness! Ah, yes, girls. Kurt Yaghijan.

N. And this is, of course, the Overture of the  film, and over the Overture, we decided to introduce each character.

T: Here�s Barry!

N. There's Barry Dennen, of course, very accomplished British actor, who plays Pontius Pilate.

T.: Oh, Carl.

N.: And there's Carl. Anderson

T. Carl Anderson. It says "thedis" on his cap.

N. Who plays Judas.

T. Look at the countryside!

N. It�s a great shot, isn�t it?

T. That�s magnificent. Thank goodness for what you did with all that whole magnificent way of making it look so huge, you know?  It was the last one that had that process, right?

N. This was shot on TODD-AO lenses. That was the last film to be made in widescreen TODD-AO. It was quite extraordinary. Douglas Slowcombe is the British cinematographer, worked on this film, and we were very lucky to get him. It was an entirely British crew. And here we are: I think these were the ruins of Avdat, way down in the desert, two hours from Beersheba .

T. And the key thing here is the ruins. That was there. You found that.

N. We didn�t build anything.  

T.: You found that.

N.: We built very little. Richard McDonald was the Producer Designer, who was just sensational,

T.: Yes, he was.

N.:  and he decided that the film should be shot with existing locations, and we would add things to it.

T. Who�s that guy?

N. And, there you are, Ted! See, that was 32 years ago, you looked a lot more---

T. It�s my son!

N. No, no. It�s just, it's just - you know something, you haven�t been aged that much, you look pretty good now.

T. Ha, ha ha! Thank you! 

N.: How old were you there?

T.: I think I was 28. 

N.: Oh, my God.

T.: And, look at these guys climbing up that scaffolding, you know, that's why I said that to begin with. This scaffolding was so incredible that...

N. It was a great idea, wasn�t it?

T. Yes.

N. When we first went to look at this location there was some scaffolding there, and  I said: �What if we built that scaffolding out, and made it into a kind of a set?� And there's the set, exactly as you would maybe put it in a theatre on a stage, except it's real. Outside of the scaffolding. And we decided the priests should always be on the scaffolding, kind of looking down. And this, and now we're going into the first number.




N. This is the first song in the opera. This was done with zoom lenses and you�ll notice the cutting, the rhythm of the cutting, is to the music and you�ve got to remember there were no rock videos 32 years ago.

T. This was the very first long form music video ever done. MTV came as a result of this.  After seeing these, MTV happened. Just remarkable to see this. And the whole thing that you went through with trying to convince people that you could actually make a film from the record album. That�s just remarkable that you had the courage to do that.

N. Well, I don�t think anyone, you know, even the people in the Universal studios, you know, Mr. Wasserman, really knew what they had, because it was just a record album, it hadn�t really taken off, when I proposed making a film of it.

T: Hadn't taken off? It hadn't even been fully released when you first decided you wanted to do it.

N. But you knew about it. I mean, it was starting to play, wasn�t it?

T. Yes. In England.

N. And the BBC banned it, they banned this record, because they thought it was sacrilegious. 

T.: Right!

N.: Gosh! Look at what they put on now! 

T.: (Laughs) I think the key word in that is sack!

N.: I must say Carl Anderson is - probably gave the performance of his life here, and, of course, the film has become a classic. But, unfortunately, we lost Carl only a month ago. He died very young, at the age of 58.

T. World�s most incredible voice, right there, no question. Just, I have worked with Carl off and on since you put us together in '72.

N. Remember when we first met? I was casting the picture, and I was in Los Angeles, right? And you heard I was here.

T. I heard you were here, casting for Superstar.

N. Right.

T. And I had been involved with Superstar when it first opened on Broadway, and then I came out to Los Angeles to do a play called �Tommy�, and I heard you..

N. That's right! Tommy. Which was the other opera.

T. And I heard you were here casting, so I wanted to get involved. Unfortunately, I was, we were in the process of rehearsals and previews, so I couldn�t get out to come to an audition. So I got in touch with your agent to find out if you could maybe come and see the show.  And the agent, luckily, invited you to see the show.

N. To see �Tommy�, yeah. 

T.: To come to see Tommy, yes.

N.: To see you in it, yeah. And, you remember when I came?

T. Yes! I remember well you came!

N. And you weren�t in it!

T. No, no. I wasn�t in it. It wasn�t planned that way, Norman, I promise you. I had gotten injured...

N. Oh man, I drove all the way from Palm Springs!

T. You drove all the way from Palm Springs and I wasn�t in the show!

N. To see that  show and then you weren't even in it! God, I was furious!

T. I know, and I didn't find out 'till the next that you had been there that night. I had gotten injured in the matinee performance on a Saturday, and you came to see the Saturday evening show that I wasn't in! It was the only performance I missed the entire run of the show!

N. That's right. I had forgotten that you'd been injured, you poor thing. And then what happened? You came to see me?

T. Then what happened was that the agent called me the next morning and just reemed me, because you had driven all the way  from Palm springs to see the show. And I felt so horrible so, in my naivet�, I said - well, could I maybe invite him to lunch, or something, just to apologize to the man?  He called you and set up a lunch for us to get together. You were at a hotel, you were getting ready to go back to London the next day.

N. You came over for breakfast, �cause I was going back to London and I had pretty well decided on someone else.

T. You openly told me.

N. This is a great shot ... look at that!

T. Oh, Carl... I really miss Carl.

N. With him sitting up there - and you came over and knocked at my door.

T. Yeah. I banged on the Hotel room door.

N. With a false beard. . .

T. (Laughing) Yes, yes. Well, I was playing Tommy, a little kid, you know, and I looked like I was 12, and here I'm going to try to convince you to think of me as Jesus! So I did have a friend, my buddy Marty Spear came over and put a beard on me.  AH!  Look at these boys!

N. It�s an interesting idea that we decided to make the film so that it would have a reference to today. This is 1972, so we took the military boots, the kind of military pants, camouflage pants, and then Yvonne Blake, our Costume Designer, decided all the Romans were gonna wear roman purple and helmets. And I wanted the helmets be chrome, because they would shine.



T. Tell about these caves, when you found these.

N. These are the caves of Beit Guvrin. And they are extraordinary. And this is where they used to put prisoners, back in biblical times. These are natural sandstone cave that have been hollowed out by years and years, and centuries of erosion. And there are these tiny holes that we took that idea for the lighting. This is, of course, Ted Neeley's, your first big song.

T. Look at Larry Marshall! There�s Jonathan. Larry's playing Simon over there...

N. Larry Marshall , he�s playing Simon the Zealot. 

T. These, these, these were so incredible to be - that the atmosphere, within these caves was so incredible and having that single source of light coming from above, and how you were so careful about time of day to make sure we were certain...

N. You remember it took days and days to clean out all the pigeon shit, all the bat dung, I mean the smell in those caves.

T. Oh, my God.

N. Here's Yvonne Elliman. 

T.: There's Yvonne.

N.: She comes from Hawaii . She was part Japanese, part Chinese, part Irish.

T. And all wonderful woman. What a sweetheart.

N. I think your lip synching here is absolutely incredible, �cause we scored this in London with Andr� Previn and the London Symphony and a rock group, a couple of guys from Deep Purple were there, I know the keyboard ...

T. And The Who were right next door.

N. And the Who were next door when we recorded.

T. Olympic Studios.


Strange Thing Mystifying

N: And here is where it is established in the version of the last days of Christ, this is where we establish Judas who questions constantly the
divinity of Jesus. Because this is, you know, the story really is kind of from Judas's point of view. 

T: Oh, Absolutely it's Judas all the way down the line. It's from Judas's point of view, he's the narrator; he keeps us connected with every single character. And the whole idea is that he's telling us from his point of view what he observed though the whole thing and it is called "Jesus Christ Superstar" The story is about Jesus, but it is Judas' concept of it.

N: Concept of him being a superstar.

T: Yes, Absolutely, and his whole philosophy is you letting your superstardom, so to speak, what you have accomplished, you're more concerned with that then what you are saying, you see.

N: I love this dramatic conflict between Judas and Christ. I mean, this is what makes the relationship work in this film. Because good films are all about dramatic confrontation. And it's your performance with Carl that really is at the heart of the artistry of this film, in my opinion.

T: Well, Thank you for allowing us to do that.

N: I remember when I when I flew you both over to London for your screen test.

T: That's right.

N: Cause I told you I'd pretty well made up my mind about other people. But I wanted to see the both of you together.

T: Yes and we were in the process of rehearsing for the Universal Amphitheater production of superstar here in L.A. When you flew us over for our screen test.

N: Right, right.

T: And uh, Carl and I had all that time on the plane to, shall we say, prepare for what we were going to do. 'Cause we both knew that you had someone else in mind for both roles. So, we were just going to go over there and have a great time and spend time with you and your crew. Great group of guys in the crew, just made us feel so welcome on the sound stage.

Then we are Decided (Part two of Strange thing Mystifying)

N: Look what Richard McDonald did by just putting some brazier's
with the fire. And the candles, or the torches

T: In what was there.

N: In what was there, even the throne that's sitting there was real.

T: Isn't this the ruin of Herod the Great's Castle.

N: Yes, this was Herod's Castle. But, I can't remember where in Israel where we where.

T: Well, we where way out in the middle of the country. Because I know that one point that you came up to me and said this particular sequence you were doing right here was going to take a while that day and if you want to go off for a while and just have some time, so I did. And I walked up at the top part of this ruin and I sat down and literally you could see all the way back to California. It was just desert no matter how far you looked. There was nothing. And I sit down there for a few minutes, Norman,  just closed my eyes and thought: "Okay I'd better get myself focus for the next sequence" and when I opened my eyes, keep in mind I could  see forever, when I opened my eyes there was a brunch of little kids, brunch of little local kids setting right in front of me looking at me. I thought I was hallucinating, I honestly did. There were a brunch of local kids who were part of this group of people that were coming though to look at the palace that day. The ruins that day.

N: Well, the tourists, yeah, Yeah we even hired some of the tourists to be in the film I think, for some of the crowd scenes.

T: Oh yeah, after a while there we became part of the .................

N: Now he was in, wasn't Bingham in the - , who plays Caiaphas...

T: Yeah, Bob Bingham and Kurt Yaghijan there.

N: Yeah, Bob Bingham, with that Bass that wonderful Bass voice

T: Yeah

N: Was he American or British?

T: American

N: He was American. 

T. Yes, both of these gentlemen were American.

N: They were both American, but were they from the New York production?

T: They were in the New York Company together. (Commenting on the scene) Oh, I love that.

N: (commenting on Kurt Yaghijan's performance) He's wonderful isn't He? He is just wonderful. (about Bob Bingham) I love his face with kind of blue eyes it just - everyone said to me that well he supposed to be a high priest but he's got blue eyes. I said this is not biblically correct this is an opera.  We have to go with the talent, with the voices.







N. Here was probably the prettiest melodic lines. And it's all acapella. Sweet voice.


T. How great it was once again to be in these caves, just surrounded by that authenticity.


N. The lady was so beautiful.


T. It's good to be the King.


N. There was a lovely warmth and relationship between the two of you.


T. She's such a sweetheart.


N. And there it is: the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful, all in one shot!  


T. And listen to that voice.


N. And I was so worried with Carl, and Carl and I were very concerned when he was cast, because he was black, and I didn't want people attacking the film from that standpoint, from a racial standpoint. He said, 'But why are you casting me?'. I said, 'I'm casting you because of your talent, not because of your color'. And he said, 'Then, I'm gonna do it man, and don't you worry yourself over it', and you know, I've made 'In The Heat Of The Night' and I was very concerned about racial problems in films and how they can be misconstrued by people.


T. Look at that face! (Carl's face) There's so much innocence there. 


N. And he was innocent,


T. Larry, and Robert...


N. I love this shot with the two hands. It was really fascinating to be able to shoot a film with no dialogue, with just nothing to work with except the music, and the lyrics and this wonderful, extraordinary cast of dancer-singers, and I think what was exciting about it also was that the audience, the cinema audience, had no idea of what they were gonna see. And, as you said, it was like the first hour and a half rock-video.


T. Exactly right, and the fact that Tim Rice so brilliantly put those lyrics together in such a manner that it was story-telling for us, that we could have conversations in those songs. You see, c-o-n-v-e-r-s-a-t-i-o-n-s.


N. And we could choreograph with film, we could choreograph with our editing, you know what I mean? That's what's extraordinary with this film, because of the work of Tony Gibbs and the tremendous dissolves and superimpositions and....  

T. Look at this one. Look at that, is that magnificent?!


N. Look at those eyes! (Ted's eyes at the end of Everything Is Alright) . And look at that... 


T. (Ted reacts to birds) Ah! 


N. those magnificent birds, and these were vultures.


T. And everyone of them were on a  Screen Actor's Guild contract! Ha ha!


N. Ha ha ha! Yeah, it cost us a lot of money to arrange that shot. 








We actually went from the black vultures against the sky to the black costumes of the priests on their scaffolding, so everything tied in. Some of the transitions are just, I think, quite brilliant. But they were there because of what happened. In other words ...


T. It was all organic.


N. It was all organic, yeah. We just took the camera, and ...

T. And I remember so many times when we've be in the middle of something, you know, and you'd call 'Cut!' and we'd break for a moment, and in an instant (Ted clicks his fingers) you'd have the camera crew grabbing the birds, or grabbing this, or shooting this thing ...


N. Grabbing this, or grabbing that, you know!


T. Shadows coming through trees, and lights, and golden hours you would be shooting into the sunset. All of this wonderful transition stuff that you had in your mind already, that you knew what you we're gonna use.


N. Don't you remember of how hot it was? I mean, it was 120 degrees.


T. And as you can see there're no trees out there anywhere.


N. Right. And all we did was drink water. Remember, the  Israeli Army told us we had to drink 3 liters of water a day.


T. Yes. Right.


N. And you never went to the bathroom, the Sun just sucked it right out of you!


T. Exactly right. And you remember that little guy that was always bringing water around...


N. The little Arab kid.


T.... we called him "Drinking", 'cause that's all he could say (in English): "Drinking? Drinking? Drinking?".


N. We hired a lot of Bedouins, we hired a lot of the local Arab people. The cast is a mixture of Christian, Hebrew, Jewish, Muslim, all three religions, and we even had two Buddhists. So it was remarkably integrated religiously ...


T. It might have been the one of the only films ever made that the word got out the country that if you're in the area, 'Come on, you got a job' .if you walk around the set, we'll put you into costume! Ha!


N. We hired so many of the cast, like most of the people in this scene are Israeli.


T. Except for Caiaphas and Annas, everybody else is Israeli.


N. Everybody else is Israeli. Israeli actors that we cast. And the only requisite I had was you had to speak English, simply because I didn't have any Hebrew and we were working with a British crew, but all of our crew, of course, were Israeli except for our lead people.


T. Yes, all the key people were your guys from your wonderful crew, and everyone else was local. All those times when  you would yell 'Action!', how many different languages did they repeat that in?


N. That's right. But you know the camera work on this film ... we had the largest crane, the great big Atlas crane that came from Italy, were three Italian technicians, Grips, and they were so beautiful the way they could move it - they could move it with such rhythm and such grace.  And we had this huge, huge crane that we dragged all over, all over Israel, and it couldn't even fit on the roads it was so big. But we sure made great use of it.





N. This is the wonderful entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem , supposedly.


T. And there's a moment coming up here, in this, toward the end of this scene...


N. Is that your wife there?


T. Almost. We'll find her here in a minute.


N. When you get a good picture a good shot here...


T. Of Leeyan ...


N. Of Leeyan, I want you to tell them the story about you and Leeyan. Very simple props with the palm leaves, and the - look at how effective it is! And I like the innocence of it. I like the simplicity of it: that it wasn't done with 3,000 extras. That it never stopped being an opera, a theatrical performance.


T. And every person there, whether they could speak our language with each other or not, was completely...


N. Look at the dust in your hair here! Look at how dusty it was - you see? And that wind...


T. And it's not something you put dust in there. Ha ha!


N. Ha ha!


T. And you didn't have to worry about the continuity, 'cause it was gonna be the same way every day!


N. Your hair is still almost as long, you know that, Ted?


T. Yeah, yeah. I can't seem to cut it, you know? Until then it was short, but once we were there it just keeps growing long.


N. How many different versions of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' have  you performed in?


T. Oh, there had been several to say the least. Well, for example that, the last tour that I did from '92 to '97. There were over 2000 performances just on that one alone...


N. 2000 performances?


T. Yeah. So I've done a couple...


N. How did your voice hold up?


T. I have nothing to do with it, it's an electrical thing, I just plug in, you see, there's this box there. Ha ha! I have no idea.


N. Because it's a strenuous vocal chore, this opera ... look at these little Arab kids, these little Israeli kids ...


T. This is that little moment. You got these little boys, you picked these little guys, that particular day to be sitting with me. And this magical moment that you captured in the face of this child. Oh! Yeah, awww...








N. And look at this setting ... I mean, this is, it reminded me of John Ford's films in Moab, Utah, and William Wyler's films, where the architecture of the cliffs themselves, almost create a brilliant setting. Look at that! Just sitting out there... 


T. There it was.


N....and that's all that remains with those Roman columns. And this was very close to the Dead Sea. This was way up, probably and hour and a half, two hours outside of Beersheba. Oh! There's --


T. Jeffrey Hyslop.


N. Jeffrey Hyslop! He was the Assistant Choreographer, wasn't he?


T. Yes


N. Where's your wife?


T. On the left.


N. Oh! There she is. She wasn't your wife then. She was your girlfriend, right? I think it's wonderful you met your -- you met someone and fell in love... 


T. Well, you say she's my girlfriend. We met there, and we didn't become, we didn't start dating until after it was all done. I had that robe on, you see, and I was ...


N. You had the robe on! And I wouldn't allow you any fraternization with anybody. I kept you alone.


T. Exactly right. I was guarded from the beginning.


N. And I kept Judas in his group.


T. And what was remarkable ... There, see? On the right.


N. There she is, there's your wife!


T. Right there on the right.  In the brown. 


N. The girl on the right, right there, the pretty one!


T. There, she's on the left now. But that whole thing you did from the very beginning, of putting us in our groups, you know, and it automatically created our different factions with Judas and his group, and my group, over here with the Apostles, you know, and, then of course the Priests. I mean, the factions were created instantly, and you kept it that way.


N. Oh look at Larry! Larry, isn't he wonderful? And there's little Bayork Lee, the gypsy from New York. 


T. Hy Douglas.


N. In this (scene) I used a lot of different little television tricks here, where I slowed the camera down and yet stayed in total rhythm.


T. Vera, Leeyan, Robert, Jeff, Leeyan.


N. And these kids (the dancers) came from America , Canada...


T. Jonathan...


N. Britain...


T. All over the place. That wonderful group that came in from in Toronto with Rob Iscov.


N. Well, Rob Iscove was a Canadian choreographer I knew.


T. And there's Wendy, his wife, Right there on the left, that's his wife, Wendy.


N. Yeah.


T. And there's magical Carl.


N. And this is where Judas is just looking at this adulation.


T. Ha ha! Larry!


N. Larry Marshal! He plays the Zealot. The religious Zealot. I love the Roman soldiers, just kind of ... there in the background watching all of this.


T. Yeah, in the purple.


N. You know, and how we mixed oozy machine guns and still kept the spears. And so there's a slight, slight mixture of modern and biblical. Actually gives it this kind of theatrical feeling and these kids (the dancers) were working at probably 110-115 degrees.


T. At least that, absolutely!


N. They could work for about 30 seconds, 40 seconds and then we'd have to cut. 


T. And, hopefully, you would have something left to...

N. Look at that framework! It's just wonderful! It's just a fabulous camera ...


T. Thank God for water, I'm tell ya,  in that sequence. Kathryn, Yvonne, Vera, Larry.


N. Now, that gives a good shot of his dental work (when Larry finally screams out with his mouth wide-open) , I'll tell ya!


T. Ha ha ha!


N. You'll notice how all the camera work is choreographed and it was stuff I used to do back in live Television when I was doing the Hit Parade, and Belafonte and Judy Garland, and I was shooting all the musical work in New York, in the early days, of CBS, NBC and Television America, and so a lot of that is here and I think that's why it feels at times like a modern rock-video, you know.


T. Because you cut to the music. Your dissolves...


N. Yeah. Because the music dictated everything and your performance ... , look at that!, the composition, the camera operator was a man called Chick Waterston, who has done some brilliant films. He did Rollerball with me also. But, his compositions are spectacular. You can see him framing trying to hold in the background, figures.


T. Look at the movements.


N. Right. And look at the size of the screen., I mean this was all done in widescreen. I have to compliment you, Ted ( Norman's voice here is very warm and affectionate), I have never seen such brilliant, brilliant lip synching, and such a sensitive performance.


T. It's all your fault.


N. It was so much to ask of you.


T. Thank you.


N. Out there in the middle of that desert.







T. It was an absolutely remarkable experience for me, Norman, to be able to be involved with you...


N. And here is Barry Dennen. Isn't he, uh, he's still performing?


T. Yes, he is actually. In fact he's on tour of Superstar as we speak, and he's actually, I believe, playing Herod.


N. He's now playing Herod?


T. I think so.


T. Interesting. For the fun of it. I remember Barry when we were doing the rehearsals in New York, for the Broadway show. And all of the company, almost every person in the company were people who worked with Tom O'Horgan in Hair, prior to that. And in rehearsal we were doing what we normally do, and in comes Barry Dennen, I mean we thought Laurence Olivier had walked on the set you see.?


N. Yeah, well he was a, he was a talented British actor.


T. Yes. And he, being, other than Yvonne, the only person in the company that had done the original album. 


N. That's right, that's right.


T. He played Pilate on that very first brown album, and Yvonne was Mary.


N. Yeah, yeah. I just fell in love with his, his interpretation of it from the album, and I just didn't want anyone else to play this role.


T. He was wonderful. Still is.  









N. And here we go to when you throw the thieves and the sellers, and the people selling arms and everything else. Remember? This was your big moment, here.


T. What a motley crew we got here.


N. Yeah. We had them selling dope, which there was a lot of around, as I remember, Ha ha!


T. Ha!


N. And this was where Peter McDonald, and we tried to set this up, with so many references that were modern, and with currency dealers. This was our little swing at the materialistic world that we were living in at that time.


T. But it still didn't pull it away from the biblical setting.


N. No. We tried to keep it partially biblical ... and here he comes! Here comes the Lone Ranger here!


T. Just upset because he didn't get invited to the party.


N. Ha ha! This is a great scene. This is a great scene. I love what you do here.


T. I sure had fun tearing that stuff up.


N. Right, and we could do it only twice, remember? Because we were worried about the props, because all the props were being broken... you broke everything! But I tried to make these tables easy for you to handle ... Oh, geeze! (Norman exclaims as Jesus-Ted is smashing everything). Well, there's a few bowls we can't use again. - What a great voice you have, my friend!


N. It must be a real, remember the mirror thing? I said, 'Oh my God, if he breaks all those mirrors, I can't do it again!'.


T. We're doomed.


N. We were in the middle of the desert!


T. I think you learned from this you just don't tell a Texas Boy to go tear something up.


N. I was so afraid you were gonna hurt yourself ... 'cause you were really, you really looked like you were out of control there, but you weren't ...


T. What a mess! What a wonderful experience. And, once gain, there was one of those moments when you said: 'Get this, Dougie, Dougie get this! Jim, look- look!' (at the hawk flying above)








N. We were on (ran) a five hundred millimeter lens to get that hawk. And a lot of our transitions are quite, quite interesting, and thank goodness, of course, we had a score to work from, so we had the inspiration of Andrew Lloyd Webber's score.


T. And I remember specifically this. I remember after shooting that sequence of tearing down the Temple, and all that, well, when we were there doing all of that, we had that set for awhile, and what was overwhelming to me was: every day, as we were coming to the close of the day, and getting ready to get back in our transportation, and go back, off set to the hotel, every day I had to walk past the building of the crucifixion sequence. So, these moments, there was always that reminder that that was going to happen, no matter what's going on here, you're gonna hang on that thing before it's  over with. That was so foreboding for me every day, to see them out there.


N. It must have been kind of frightening for you to see where we were going to put the cross. up


T. It was, it was. But what food for thought! It just was constantly a reminder of important things to come.


N. It was probably, maybe, what Jesus went through. 


T. It's remarkable.


N. This was an interesting concept for this song in the opera, which is, of course, representing the lepers and the ill and the deformed and the sick, coming to Jesus to be cured. And so we staged it in a wadi, what they call a wadi, which is really a valley, but I think  Rob Iscove's idea of having people emerge out of crevices and cracks and caves, it gives it an interesting, creepy kind of feeling. I love the costuming here Yvonne Blake came up with.


T. Oh, absolutely marvelous.


N. Didn't cost us too much for the Cyclops.


T. Ha ha, you're right! And the thing for me, this representing the fact of overwhelming responsibility that had now been cast upon this single man to cure all the ills of the world. And he couldn't any possibly do it alone. And all this screaming out is crying for help. One man, one man alone. Look at that sunset. I remember you talking about golden hour, the importance of the golden hour.


N. Yeah, golden hours, right, because on the desert you see, it's only from four-thirty or five until the sun goes down that you really can shoot, or you get any kind of shadows.


T. Yeah.


N. Or any kind of interesting look, because otherwise it's just so bright.


T. Yeah. And it's so fleeting. It lasted such a short amount of time.


N. And the morning is even shorter. Dawn is even shorter on the desert. This was probably the most... the biggest song, wasn't it, out of the...?


T. Oh yes, this was the major hit from the album.


N. Yeah, this was, as I remember this was the song that everybody was, in America, was singing.


T. And there were several cover versions of it as well: established artists picked it and did it.









N. But it really was Yvonne Elliman's song.


T. You betcha.


N. It was her song.


T. She sang it on that brown album, and nobody can touch that sweetness.


N. We had problems with the wind, I remember, that night. Remember?


T. Yes I do.


N. We had no control over the wind, and yet the kind of the movement of the tents and the fabric.


T. It's all natural.


N. Yeah. It really made something, I mean, you got to remember none of this was ever ... there wasn't one scene in the film that was shot on a stage. The entire film was shot on location.


T. That wasn't wind machines. That was the wind.


N. That's right. Everybody's often talked to me about this film, saying that it has such a spectacular look to it, and a great design and a great simplicity. How did I get it, and I must have spent hours on the stage in London, and I keep telling them: 'No, no, you don't understand! It was made out on the desert!'. And we were all together, just like a bunch of young people, all together.


T. We were basically a tribe of entertainers to the maximum coming over there to do what we did, just like you set it up in the beginning: a group of people who arrived and this is what we did, and you covered every moment of it. And I was so happy that you chose here to shoot night, as opposed to day for night: I just think it's the real thing. It's so beautiful this way.


N. Yeah. We shot it all at night. There's something about her natural kind of beauty. There's very little make-up in the film. Now, is Yvonne still performing?


T, Yes, absolutely. She goes out and tours a lot with a lot of artists, she's done a lot of...


N. I remember on this musical bridge. I didn't know what to do and I was starting to photograph shadows.


T. Ha ha ha! You see, look how you combined the shadow on the rock to this silhouette.


N. Yes it was a gorgeous silhouette, and it's not easy to get either when you're working outside at night like that. And all of the colors are kind of faded tones. There are very few primary colors in the film.


T. I also remember that this was one of the few moments in the entire shoot the whole time were were in Israel that the company got some time off.


N. Right, there was just her and you.


T. That's right. And the wonderful crew.


N. Just the two of you.


T. I think that was not too long after we spent that wonderful break. In, what was it, Elat?








N. Yeah, Elat. We went down to Elat and that was on the Jewish High Holy Days, and this is the scene  that really caused us a lot of controversy. When I talk to people about the film, this idea of going to Judas alone on the desert, and in this extraordinary shot that's about to happen, and how it's tied in with the music and choreographed. And out of nowhere come these tanks...


T. The fact that flutes are playing against those tanks.


N. Yeah. the Flutes playing against these five Patton tanks. And these were American tanks that the Israeli Army used in the Six-Days War.


T. And what a magnificent way to show the force behind Judas making his decision, driving him to do what he decided to do. And I got to make my camera operator's debut on that moment there, the boys put a built on me and I was down in that hole when the guys ran over holding that camera. I thought for sure I was going to get a nomination for that one shot.


N. You'll notice that there's no safety belts on anybody.


T. Not a chance.


N. And I was holding my breath on this whole scene, because I was so terrified that somebody was going to slip, because we were actually working live, on three or four stories above the ground.


T. Yes. See, all of us had done these sorts of things on sets, and so on, I mean, this was such a thrill for us to be able to do these kinds of things, and Carl couldn't wait to get up on that scaffolding. It wasn't a question of "I'm gonna hurt myself", as "If you think I'm not gettin' up there, you're nuts!" and all the guys playing priests, certainly Caiaphas and Annas, just loved it .


N. And here comes Caiaphas and the scribes.


T. And, once again, the use of the ruins as if it's really there....were there doing what they just worked so well.


N. Yes. There is this continuous tie-in, isn't there, between the reality of the biblical setting and yet the theatricality of modern music and contemporary acting. I think this is part of the success of the film, that it wasn't trying to be a deeply religious piece.


T. No.


N. That was a.. it was really an opera.


T. Yes, it's about...


N. It's using the New Testament, of course, as an inspiration...


T. Absolutely, no question, based upon the fact, but the fact is: it's looking at it from a whole another point of view. The internal elements that went on between the relationships, the personal relationships, between Judas and Jesus and Mary, and the Apostles. They were all friends, they all did something together, you see, as supposed to make it with pomp & circumstance, it's friends going through life, like my children are going through life right now. They're making decisions, on a daily basis about what is right for them. And now we see how they're affected by those decisions.


N. Right. What is right or wrong or good or bad.


T. This was the major decision right here. "Do I take this? Do I throw it in their faces? Is Jesus doing the right thing? Do I know he's doing the right thing? I've watched him do the right thing, and now it's falling apart. I don't want to turn him in. But we could all use that money to feed the people who are starving in our village." Even while he's saying it,  he's questioning, should I.


N. And this moment of betrayal is so theatrical! Look at the fly!


T. And now he's just hearing the voices of "What he's done, what is this?"


N. And here it is, the betrayal. 


T. I remember! God!


N. The betrayal of the principles of Jesus and this is the punctuation. And just to have those two jets come in, just at that moment.


T. And having those jets, and I remember talking to the guys who were on that crew and they were talking about: "Yeah, at dawn we bombed the Syrian border at 10AM,  we do Jesus Christ Superstar at noon we bomb... Ha!"








N. The inspiration for this whole scene was this Arab shepherd that I watched come up this valley with his flock to the well. And that was about a year and a half, or at least a year before this scene. And when I chose it, I said, "If we planted grass in this, among these olive trees, close to this well, how long would it take?' And they assured me, the agronomist in Israel from the University said "Well, if we water it and we put a fence around it, and we water it every day, twice a day, I think I can have grass here for you within four months."


T. And, boy they did it, didn't they?


N. And this is the only verdant pasture scene in all of Israel at this moment of shooting it. And we didn't allow anybody to go near this place, because I felt The Last Supper, first of all I wanted it outside, and yet, of course, we're all influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, and most of us remember The Last Supper through Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of the Last Supper that we've seen since we were children hanging in museums, or on calendars, or on a  church wall somewhere, but I wanted to have it outside and so I sat everybody on the ground, because that's the way everybody eat anyway.


T. And thank God you did. And I remember the crew, the guys who were in the crew were always so helpful with everything. And they told me that day, they said: "Ted, we know you're gonna be doing bread and wine today, but we couldn't get you a rainforest, but we do have some sausage over here in the back. So, if you want your sausage, just give us a little heads up.". And of course we had flies constantly, we were always having to swat flies.


N. Oh, yeah, the flies that were hanging around that day, but you can see the wind, see it?


T. All natural.


N. And we had a big discussion about the Arab bread. Did it ever occur to you, Ted, when you were playing this remarkable spiritual leader, Jesus of Nazareth, and having to do this... that it would affect your life? The rest of your life?


T. No. And I must tell you that just the opportunity to step into those shoes was not something I pursued, 'cause I initially went out to do the role of Judas. I was afraid of what you're talking about. But, once you made that decision, and you had faith in my ability to maybe deliver something, I was so committed to it, and I'm telling you, talk about an effect on my life, my life completely changed as a result of that. Not only in my spiritual element, but also having met Leeyan as a result of it. Everything in my life was different from that moment on.


N. And it's true.


T. And the people who are wonderful fans of this film, and who have come to see the performances subsequent to this film, constantly tell me how this affected their lives, how this brought them to a more spiritual acknowledgement of actual spirituality in their lives. More so than any going to church, or even reading the Bible, seeing this wonderful film, and how you made the reality of human beings, that Jesus was in fact embodied as a man. All of the people who surrounded him influenced their thought process and brought them closer to a spiritual understanding in their lives.


N. Well it's remarkable, I think, of all the films I've made, this has affected people more than any other film.


T. This moment here established something for Carl and myself that we did for the next 30 years. Performing, off and on, because of this moment, because you set this stage for us to feel like it was all natural. And we already had the relationship between the two of us. But to be able to do this right there, with that intensity, and have ourselves surrounded by that olive grove, the authenticity of that created such a magnificent experience for us, and it lasted forever.


N. Well, I think this is that part of the excitement of the film, because the actors... we can put the actors in such a realistic setting that the realism of the moment is, has got nothing to do with theatre or anything else. It's got everything to do with what is totally real, like when Carl runs into that flock of sheep and they stampede. I mean, it, symbolically it's incredible. And, I remember asking him to run as fast as he could, and you can see how difficult it is, because he was running in sandals, and the stones were sharp and they were hurting his feet. But those kind of moments, when they're captured on film, are there forever and that's what's important to me about film: because film is forever.


T. Yes. This is... 


N. Like books are forever.


T. This is as fresh for me right now. As the first time I sat and saw the very first screening.


N. I haven't screened the film for over 8 or 10 years. 


T. I've not seen the film in quite a long time


N. I screened it at a film festival, about eight or ten years ago, and I'm finding it very powerful. And...


T. It still works, doesn't it?








N. Yeah, it works because of the strength of the music and the brilliance of the lyrics, but it's also in the performances, but it also goes much deeper than that because what we're dealing here with is a religious aspect of the film, which keeps creeping in and grabbing the a hold of your heart.


T. And that's what has made it work for me, for all these years that I've had the opportunity to perform. Because all the people who come to see it, bring their own interpretation of this story with them, and they project that as a result of this film up on us on the stage. It's such a magnificent interchange of energy from the audience to the stage back to the audience to the stage. It's just cyclical and it's overwhelmingly powerful.


N. This is to me the most exciting moment in the film. This song that takes place in the garden of Gethsemane.


T. I remember you being so concerned about me falling from the moments of climbing. Anytime you had me climb up something, you were afraid I was gonna fall and break something.


N. Well, look where we got you! We got you standing out on the edge of rocks. There's no safety belts here or anything, and you're walking around in those darn sandals, and climbing around. And I'm asking you to go from ... I'm giving you a path, but the choreography is natural with the song.


T. Yes, but see: you were worried about me. And my concern was with that magnificent group of crew guys who were carrying those A7 speakers up the hill, so I could hear the soundtrack on either side of the camera, for me to be able to hear, because, you know, for me to be able to lip-sync I had to have them blasting like a full rock and roll revival.


N. I know, we had those big speakers blasting at you.


T. And here's five guys on camera left and camera right with a speaker on either side. Those huge A7s. And they're carrying them up the mountainside.


N. Oh yeah. We dragged all the equipment up that mountain. And I remember we were also fighting light here.


T. Oh God, yes, 'cause you had a moment and you wanted that golden hour to work.


N. Can you still hit those notes, Ted? What a remarkable voice you have!


T. I just did it on 9th (of April)... I don't have any idea.


N. I heard you sang this at...


T. For Carl.


N. At Carl Anderson's memorial service, at his funeral.


T. Yes, and ... I've obviously done it many times since this moment in the film, but that was the first moment, that even anywhere nearly touched this experience. I wish you could feel from within me what you helped me achieve in these moments. It's all those conversations that you ... 


N. Well, maybe you got a little help from upstairs too.


T. But you always said: "Look up here, look at Topol's God, he's right up here, and he's the same one Topol was looking at!" , right?


N. Then, this moment of realization of what was going to happen to you. And what you were going to have to go through.  What I did was I tried to gather together some of the greatest paintings in the world, of artists. And tried to capture the agony and loneliness of this extraordinary moment of pain and sacrifice that the character has to go through. And it was the only time in the opera that I used something that was outside of the realistic location. And it was simply, because I felt that could be used in that incredible orchestral build to give you an idea of what was in his mind in that moment.


T. Absolutely. It was so on my mind, that the complete spiritual connection at this moment: one man representing all of humanity and his conversation with God.


N. And here's, in this moment, at this climax of this remarkable piece, here's where you feel also the strength of the London Symphony with Andr� Previn. You know, I mean, this is an extraordinary soundtrack here. It'll never be repeated again.


T. No wind machine.


N. That was the - look at the wind blowing on you. And that was what we were heading for 


T. That Golden Hour (Moment).


N. ...that moment and the sun just went behind this cloud.


N. And we were...oh my God, look at that dissolve right through to Judas. And the kiss.








T. You know, Carl and I would to get together at night, after we would wrap, and just sit and discuss the next day and the emotional power that we experienced as a result of this, every day was remarkable. The tears that he and I shed together during the location of this picture were just remarkable, because we were experiencing every day something that people dream of experiencing in a relationship: man, woman, child, it doesn't matter. What was going on with us emotionally was overwhelming, and you created that for us.


N. Well, I mean, this is also there in those two characters and I think also being on location and not being part of a totally secular world - this wasn't a ... when we were making this film people weren't going home to their homes at night and talking to their agents and watching the nightly news or watching their local television, there was none of that. We were out on the desert, alone, in a foreign country, and unless you spoke Hebrew, and there wasn't too many people to talk to. And we certainly weren't watching television and it was this isolation, I think, which pulled everyone very closely together and made the experience in the film almost became ... took over our lives... 


T. It did 


N. ...and we were all experiencing this together.


T. So many times when I would sit and try to communicate with the local guys that were so helpful and the girls that were so helpful, and those who spoke English even much more fluently than I, oftentimes they would say: "You know, there are people who are saying you're on a 'Jesus trip', doing this film." And my response was that  "You're absolutely right, that's what I'm here to do and I want to do whatever I can do to achieve that" and you gave me that isolation so I could focus on trying to make those things happen. And you always to me anytime I was losing it and we'd have a lovely little conversation and get me back on track. It was wonderful. And I'm so convinced that in the hands of anyone else this film would not have had this magnificent spiritual content that it does. Without slapping people on the head of the Bible. It is what it is and it's so simply stated that everyone can understand what it's about.


N. I see a lot of unpretentious, rather simple work here, with the staging, the restraint, there's a restraint here which, for me, makes the experience more authentic. There's no doubt about it, we did come under, because of scenes like this, where the scribes and the high priests at that time and the mob turns against Jesus, there's no doubt about it that we also came under the same controversy that I think all religious films or films that deal with major religious stories, you know, they ignite this kind of ...









T. You can't possibly deal with this subject matter, no matter from which point of view you approach it, without touching some fire in somebody's spirit. Someone's gonna take issue with that and, I think that's great. If everybody agreed with you, you wouldn't have anything to do but just talk about agreeing with each other. The fact that this did create controversy, just like as you said, all other projects that have been done on this subject matter created controversy, helped the success of the film in a lot of ways. In a lot of ways it didn't help it, but they're gonna to talk about it 'cause as you're dealing with that which is so personal to every human being in the world. Their religion.


N. That was my voice that we just heard! (The 3rd man saying: "...but I saw you too...")


T. I know.


N. I lip-synched that actually, because, you remember? I just heard my own voice in the film, but you know what is interesting is that Martin Scorsese's film ...


T. "Last Temptation".


N. "Last Temptation of Christ" also came under tremendous criticism from certain people, certain - directs  in certain areas. I think when this film was finished, "Jesus Christ Superstar", because there was so much controversy about it from the very beginning, simply because of the nature of it - the fact that was a rock video ... rock video - that it was a rock album.


T. Opera.  Yes.


N. The rock music and so on, I think that kind of led the BBC in England to get a little frightened of it.


T. And the fact that Jesus was actually singing? 


N. Yeah.


T. Jesus is portrayed singing? They couldn't accept that. And, I mean, who else would have more reason to sing, I would think, then someone, you know?  And then you mentioned the Scorsese's piece "Last Temptation": Carl and I were constantly referring to that book while we were doing this. And both of us grew up in the South in Southern Baptist experiences as children. So we knew the Bible like the back of our hand. "The Last Temptation of Christ" gave us the other point of view. So that we could look at it as human beings as opposed to just the God elements, and then when Scorsese made that  film, the same thing happened again, and the same thing is happening with Mel's picture.


N. With Mel Gibson's picture "The Passion", yeah.









T. And I remember back in my childhood, seeing films like "The King of Kings", you know, and "The Ten Commandments". There were people who complained about those as well.


N. Oh Yes, I don't think there's ever been a film that has dealt with a religious figure, whether it's a ...


T. "The Greatest Story Ever Told", also. Same thing there.


N. Yes. Whether it's Christian or Mohammed or Buddhist or whatever, that it doesn't create problems for -  especially for people who are totally fundamentalist in their beliefs. 


T. Right.


N. I was more concerned, I think, that - on the release of the film - that everyone would turn on it, and, of course, when the Vatican sent the Roman "L'Osservatore Romano", the newspaper in Rome which is the spokesman for the Vatican, they sent a journalist from Rome with the Monsignor, and they came and I showed them the film at Pinewood Studios in England. And I kind of held my breath, because I didn't know how they were going to react to it.  And, of course, we didn't have Italian subtitles on it, but they were aware of the project and, when they came out, they were just totally overwhelmed.


T. They were. And I remember specifically...


N. One of them said: "Not since Leonardo da Vinci!" and they were just overwhelmed with the affect that it had on them. And I think they took that back to the Vatican and then, of course, I was contacted and I sent a print to the Vatican so that it could be screened for the Pope. So we did, as I remember, I think we pretty well had the support of the Vatican


T. Oh absolutely. And, I remember specifically, because one thing that was said so amazingly was about my involvement - the quote was: "That boy that plays Jesus should be canonized!".


N. So sweet, isn't it?








N. And here's Josh Mostel playing the camp, King Herod. And this is where Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, of course, wrote this whole number as a kind of a musical vaudeville number.


T. It's the only moment of levity in the entire piece.                       


N. And it's the only moment of fun kind of - and ...


T. Together.


N. Yeah.


T. And that's the lovely the Dead Sea, right?


N. There is the Dead Sea, right.  




T. You and I got to float in that Dead Sea, you know, didn't we?  


N. That's right, we got to float in the Dead Sea, where we sat there held up by the salt water.  


T. That's right, they had that great photograph of  just - you see our heads and our arms and our feet, you know, and we're reading the newspaper out there in the middle of the Dead Sea. We could not sink.  

(thanks for the great find, Lynne/Moose!)  


N. This is where we had the only real fun in the entire opera is this number.  Look at Bayork Lee, there. That little oriental dancer.


T. Hy Douglas, and Tommy Walsh, Robert Lupone, Jeff Hyslop, Leeyan, Vera, Wendy, Cliff, and Joshua.


N. Rob Iscove is, he had a lot of fun staging this number because we did all the - a lot of wonderful... and here it's interesting at this point when he turns angry, at the end of this...


T. Nice moat he has there. Nice little place to hang out with his friends.


N. Yeah,  just floating around the Dead Sea in the afternoon.









T. I remember the moment here, whenever you had the soldiers do that - taking me away or bringing me into whatever, I remember once you ... you were ... I'm walking with the soldiers and they're pushing me and throwing me. Now, this is exactly the moment that that happened. I heard, I heard: "Cut!" Ok. So you walked up to me and very gently put your hand on my shoulder and said, you said: "Ted, I don't think the world would believe that Jesus was bow-legged, so could you keep that in mind when you're walking, you know. Don't think about getting off the horse, just think that...". 

N. That's terrible!

T. No, but I was doing the typical whatever, you know?

N. Yeah, you were doin' that weird Texas walk! 


T. I'll never forget that! 


N. You were born with it.


T. Is she gorgeous or what? 


N. Well, I can't believe sitting here 32 years later, having this conversation, but here we are in Los Angeles, looking back at a film which was shot so long ago, and yet still seems pretty vital.


T. We just did it yesterday. I don't know if you've had the pleasure as I have many times, of sitting and talking with people who are life-long fans of this film and who share some of those magnificent experiences as a result of that.  And their parents introduced them to it. And now they're introducing their children to it. When you can stand and perform live for people and you got three or four generations of the same family coming to see what you're doing, because this film introduced them to what they believe.


N. You know, you are the only person who ... that explained that to me so eloquently, because you've continued to perform in this play, in this musical, through the years, live, and you've been able to (keep in) contact with people who saw you on the screen. The only other person is Topol from "The Fiddler on the Roof", because he often  says the same thing, he's performing "Fiddler on the Roof" in Australia, or in England or some other country, or America, some place, and all of a sudden people will say they first saw that film, it meant so much to them, and now they're bringing their children, and now they bring their children's children and so there's a kind of a wonderful continuity.


T. I get letters even from ... constantly. They say exactly that.


N. And that can only happen because they're both musicals and they are continued to live and be performed live in some part of the world. Just like this film continues to play. I've never had a film that plays as much as "Jesus Christ Superstar" in some part of the world, whether it's on television, or whether it's live, or - in a cinema, but it just continues to be shown.


T. I just remembered something.  Do you remember what happened right after this moment?


N. When you were put into the cave?







T. Yes, remember what happened right after you finished this moment? You backed off, you pulled away with that magnificent shot - you see back there all the way to the wall? 


N. Yes.


T. Suddenly I heard sounds coming out of that cave (he makes these sounds) and five minutes later out comes about twenty-five little children and a teacher, they were on a field-trip from a school.


N. And they were studying back in the cave.


T. That's exactly right. They were back in there - under - they'd entered from the from the other side and were coming through there. I thought we were gonna be attacked by bats or something. And it was children. It was wonderful.


N. It was a great shot of you down there, wasn't it?


T. It was wonderful. And that sand.  Powder. Just pure powdered sand. Like flour - just like cooking flour.


N. It was almost like Fuller's Earth.


T. Exactly - like Fuller's Earth.  (Singing with Annas: "...You backed the right horse.") Just before we shot this sequence, we had had a volley-ball challenge on a day off, on a weekend off at the hotel.


N. Really?


T. Yeah. Judas and his gang against Jesus and his gang. Look at that! I miss you, Carl.


N, Yes, this is pretty hard for you to watch this. This moment, especially since we've lost Carl so recently.


T. I just got to see him perform last July, in Philadelphia. He was doing yet another performance of Superstar another tour was out. My friends and I in Philadelphia went to see him in performance. And he was just magnificent. Just...


N. Well, he said he got better. He told me ...


T. Yes, if you can believe that, if you think it's possible.


N. Well, he said he got better and better, because he felt that he got closer to understanding what the torment of the character - and what the character was going through and the motivation and all of those things.


T. Yes.


N. And -


T. As a result of this, to be able to have that experience, and my friend Michael McKyle and I went to see him, and he was as vibrant and alive and as magnificent ever. And here we are, a year later, and he's no longer with us ...


N. Yeah. This is where I - in this soliloquy I decided go into voiceover - a voiceover technique, and just let  the camera go with Carl as he runs towards his own demise


T. I remember that handheld camera. Just following him.


N. Yeah.


T. Just...


N. Just a lot of handheld work here. This is also before the days of steady cam. We had a little to literally handheld. We didn't take advantage of the smooth steady cam. So it's all literally handheld.


T. And you remember when we first did this? And the rope broke.


N. The rope broke! Yeah.


T. And that was right near the edge of a cliff, and I was there that day just watching, 'cause I wasn't part of it. And, in retrospect, thank God, because he grabbed my hand when he was falling. You let me sit right in front of the camera, remember


N. It's one of the scenes that I, it's one of the few scenes that I had sketched out in my mind; so it's really pretty theatrical in its concept.


T. But absolutely...  








N. I love the way it goes physically Judas' death to Pilate. And this was done in the amphitheatre. 

T. Is it Caesaria, isn't it?

N. Excuse me?


T. Was that Caesaria?


N. Yes, Caesaria. And this is also the amphitheatre where we almost lost our choreographer.

T. Rob Iscove, yeah.

N. Rob Iscove, who is now a very talented television director and he does a number of big television shows. We were shooting that night scene of the rock video, the rock film ...

T. The Theme,


N. Yeah. 


T. ... where Carl enters on the big crane...

N. Where Carl enters on the crane. 


T. It was night shooting...


N. And that the night that Rob was standing behind me on the top of the amphitheatre, 


T. Yes.


N. and he stepped back, and I saw him going. 


T. Yes.


N. And I grabbed the front of his shirt, and it went right through my hands. And, I couldn't hang onto him...


T. Oh boy.


N. and he fell probably 30 - 40 feet.

T. And it happened to be in an area where there was a lot of equipment that was outside the walls.

N. He missed hitting the base of a spider, a big light stand. His head missed it by possibly two to three inches, or he would have been killed instantly. And, as it was ...

T. He was hospitalized.

N. Oh! He was hospitalized. He broke his jaw, he broke his pelvis, he smashed his shoulder. Oh, God, he was a mess! And, as a matter of fact, at that point, we sent him back to America on a stretcher, on an overseas flight. We had to send him back, so he could - but he was operated on in Jerusalem, but he was - it took him six months or a year to recover. And that's when Wendy Iscove kind of took over..


T. Yes.


N. His wife.


T. Yes.


N. ... who was also his lead dancer. But, God, we were lucky! We were lucky that uh - we had (a) few bad accidents on this film..

T. Yeah, but that was the worst, that one was definitely the worst.

N. Yeah, people were scrambling around on these ruins all the time. And there was just no safety belts, or no ... and I kept warning people, because it just frightened me, everybody climbing all over the place.


T. (Laughs) Yes.


N. And they were using it like a set, you know?  


T. Yes.


N. But, at night, we should have had barriers up there, and fences. This is, of course, the lashes.

T. I remember the first screening in Texas. Actually, it was the firs screening for the Southwest Distributors. And, it was in Dallas, and my family, all my  - because that's home for me - and I remember sitting between my sister and my mother. And all through the film, there was like a, you know, silent gut reaction. When this moment happened, my mother just broke down. She couldn't take it. She just couldn't take it. 

N. She started to cry?

T. Oh, she just, she - she didn't get hysterical, but she couldn't take it. She just cried her heart out. She just ....

N. Well, it's a powerful scene, it's a powerful scene. 


T. Yes.


N.. What's interesting is we don't use than much blood. 


T. No.


N. I don't think it's necessary. I think images like this, and sound are enough, and, of course, your acting. And I think we feel every stroke.

T. And I remember when she was asked afterward, because it was obvious to everybody in the room that she was crying - this was - this was - you could hear her cry - and at the end of the screening, the wonderful people were talking to her about how she felt. And basically, she just said: "Nobody can do that to my baby but me! I never did that to my baby! I don't want anybody else to do it!" Bless her heart. God, so many people. I just can't help but think about the conversations I've had over the last thirty years with people. How they were affected by this. 


N. Yes.


T. ... how they were moved, spiritually, by this.

N. Yeah. It's a powerful, powerful moment in our life experience because of what we've been told. And, I think, when it comes down to it, this story of the ultimate betrayal, because we all are betrayed, we all feel that. The identification at this point in the film with Jesus, with the character that you created is uh, makes it a very powerful film. And, I think Tim Rice was on to something simply because he shows that people are torn  in their moments of belief. We are all struggling with our faith. But, it's uh - there's no doubt about it. It's a very moving experience to watch this film, even now, thirty-two years after it was made. 




N. And here comes Carl on his crane. And my big problem was, I couldn't get the light off the crane. They said, "What are you going to do?", and I said, "We're going to leave it/" Because, I wanted him kind of floating magically in on the end of a---

T. Post-mortem.


N. But - uh... 


T Post-mortem leap years....

N. I wanted him to fly out of the sky, as a giant white angel, but, unfortunately, we saw the crane. And it was the biggest crane in Israel that we could get, because it literally had to be higher than the amphitheatre. And here's the Supremes, courtesy of Diana Ross.  

T. DaGirLS.

N. I love the choreography of this.

T. And I remember when we were doing the master shots of - later on, you'll see everyone dancing on the stage - I remember that night -  you going through, doing your version of Judas going through the crowd. And I was thinking at the time, "Please let the cameras be rolling, so you can see Norman dancing through all these gorgeous girls in your boots, in your shorts, in your combat caps!" And it was just incredible to see that, because,  you know, Carl and I are about as much of a dancer as your local livestock and rodeo show. And, bless your heart! You were trying to get us into seeing what we should do. Just a great image, to see you do that! This sequence, here, see all that? All those dancers are up there, doing their stuff,  you know? So ... anybody, while they're looking at these pictures, they can just visualize you roaming through all of those great dancers.

N. Oh, I was out of it that night. I was really - I was in ... like doing a rock and roll show, here, I was...

T. I remember you had your Australian cap, your Aussie cap - hat - hat.

N. Oh, yeah my little Aussie hat I wore, yeah. 


T. Yeah.


N. Some Israeli soldier gave me to keep the sun off my head.

Yeah. Remember how much trouble it was here, getting that 'golden shot' there? So little time to get that in silhouette. 




N. Yeah. And I love the way Tony Gibbs intercut this. It just works like a dream. Now this is what you can't do on stage, you see?

T. No, you can't. And that's what was being constructed, on those times I was talking about. At the end of the day, I'd always see that as a reminder.

N. Yeah, when they were constructing Calvary.  


T. Yeah.


N. I tell you, when we showed this film at the Taormina Film Festival in Italy, about eight years ago, in a amphitheatre, a Roman amphitheatre that was built over 2000 years ago, and we showed this film in 8-track stereo, these huge big speakers, on the outdoor screen at night, on the edge of the Mediterranean...  


T Oh, God!


N. ... for about, for over 1000 people. Oh, God it was an experience. And everybody was dancing and jumping around, then, all of a sudden, we came to this scene, and everybody went silent ... just, absolutely silent..

T. Remember that first guy that you had drive the spike? Couldn't speak English, and, had the Arabic AD, Assistant Director, had he not stopped him, he was going to put it through my hand. 


N. He was gonna put it right through your hand.


T. You were stopping - you were on that squawk box: "No! No! Not in the hand!"

N. I couldn't believe it, when he picked it up and put it on your hand. It's very interesting, orchestrally, what happened here, too, because this is -  this - all this had to be rewritten and re-orchestrated. And, Andre Previn, this is where he ran over to the piano and he started to play. And then we had this sustaining St. Paul's Boys Choir. And they're holding, and he goes over and starts this. And,  it was remarkable to watch him actually score this whole scene in a recording studio in London, to the film, because I'd run out of, I didn't have anything at this point; so, I was shooting almost blind here. But when we could re-record it, I have Andre to thank for a lot of this. He's a remarkably talented conductor and composer. What are you thinking about right now, Ted?   

T. Ah, I - uh, I'm honestly holding back sobs. Because I remember all of that ... I remember what you allowed me to do to get there. I remember Jeff Hyslop and Robert Lupone, two of the central apostle figures in the picture, and two of the most magnificent dancers in the world, that you allowed to be there to - for me to relate to, and how you nurtured me into that. 






N. But this is to me,  you see, this is the only mystical moment of the film, because everybody quiets down. And everybody gets on that bus. We have now performed this opera ... but...


T. ...and these two gentlemen...


N. You can se these two.....

T. That's Jeff and Robert...

N. Yeah, you can see these two ... when they look back and they ... when everyone has their moment of looking back, and all of a sudden we realize you're not there. And all of a sudden, the film takes on a deeper meaning. And what started out as a performance ....

T. I miss you, Carl.

N. ...has become a deeper film, where there is some kind of power happening. And at this moment, when I was shooting this, something happened that was totally improvised. And - was all of a sudden, a figure appeared. And - I couldn't - we couldn't - I was standing by the camera, and, of course, we kept shooting. And all of a sudden I realized the figure was that of a shepherd. And he appeared out of nowhere, and the flock of sheep following this apparition, almost, this ghostly figure, uh, just at this moment with the sun going down, uh, just blew us all away. And uh, we just stood there in tears, didn't know what to do. And so, of course, it remained in the film. But we were just there to shoot a sunset. 

T. Oh, yeah. Well, you got your spiritual sunset, Norman.

N. Well, here we are. Anyway, I have to thank you, Ted, for coming in and sharing this with me, and uh ....

T. Oh, it was my absolute pleasure, Norman..

N. And, I hope the audience, if you heard any of this, that you've enjoyed this experience of watching this DVD of Jesus Christ Superstar.

T. I - I just have to say one more thing. I just, when you said, "What are  you thinking of right now?", I mean, there are so many images that are apparent in my spirit as a result of this experience. Do you remember all that we went through during the crucifixion, with the sudden weather change, and... 


N. Yes.


T ... it hadn't rained in that country....


N. Right.


T ... forever, in that spot? And all of a sudden, it was gale-force winds, and overwhelming rain storms and you on the squawk box telling everybody to get out of here, because we didn't know what was gonna happen. And I'm stuck up - I'm up there on the cross! And then, I remember you tellin' - I hear - I hear you on that box, "Get him off of there! Get him down off of there!" And, you know, I never cried so much in my life, out of the emotional experience of this piece. And how, once we finally finished the crucifixion, how nurturing, and warm, and wonderfully supportive you were for me when I was falling apart after that.

N. Well, thank you, my friend.  


T. Thank you.


N. It's been a great experience.

T. What a wonderful, life-changing experience.

N. Thank you. Well, take care of yourself. Thank you.

T. And you, too. I miss you, Carl.

N. Yeah, we miss Carl.


Mianne Tripp (, one of our newest Tedheads, has found a VERY INTERESTING interview here:

     done with Lynn Neary on the Highbeam show "Talk of the Nation" on 2/12/04.  The interviewees include, among 
     others, Norman Jewison.  The interview is VERY LENGTHY, and I will not post it all here.  There are a few parts 
     mentioning Ted, which I have posted below.  You can buy the entire interview at the link above:


NEARY: We've been talking about the fact that the various images of Jesus have emerged over time as sort of both products and reflections of the times that these images are created in. What do you think the Jesus of "Jesus Christ Superstar" said about the time in which that film was being made? How did it reflect that time? What did it say about that time?

Mr. JEWISON: Well, I think it captured the imagination of millions of people all over the world. I think of all the films I've made it probably had the most--the strongest reaction, especially in Latin America and certain strongly Catholic countries. I think the film, because it was a musical and because it was a very strong, strong score and extremely popular throughout the world--I think it carried with it a kind of a modern identification for Jesus, for the character. I think Christ, the character played by--Ted Neeley was the actor, and for the rest of his life, Ted Neeley has played this role, in a way. He has literally become that character and has, I think, performed in the stage version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" almost continually for the past 30 years or so. I

It's very strange. I think it was young--I think Ted Neeley was very attractive and very--he was a rock star. And this kind of interpretation of the young, dynamic, angry at times character--because, you know, he was anti-weapons, he was anti-guns, he was anti-money. He was--there was enormous scenes where he was smashing everything from American Express cards to travel posters simply because of the materialism of the secular world, almost.

NEARY: He was very much a product of the '70s.

Mr. JEWISON: Yeah.

NEARY: Yeah.

Mr. JEWISON: And it's such a young person's--you know, you must remember Tim Rice was only 25, 26 years old when he wrote this.

NEARY: Right.

Mr. JEWISON: I mean, they were young men. And they defended it brilliantly. I went to many debates. The archbishop of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, he had a tremendous debate with a representative from the Anti-Defamation League in New York. And it was really astounding, the amount of controversy that eventually started to rise up in such a way that the film was not nominated for an Academy Award and all of those things. And it won awards all over the world.


NEARY: Producer, director and writer Norman Jewison is a veteran of many films, including the 1973 film "Jesus Christ Superstar." His latest movie is called "The Statement." He joined us from his home in Los Angeles. We are talking about Jesus as an American icon. If you'd like to give us a call, the number is 1 (800) 989-8255. And I wanted to ask you now, regarding "Jesus Christ Superstar," you say in your book, Richard Wightman Fox, that it was at that moment that Jesus became part of the sort of celebrity culture of America.

 Mr. FOX: I think I would've told Norman Jewison this if I'd had a chance. I just think his film is magnificent in this particular way, that it does a new job on celebrity itself. It helps us as Americans understand what celebrity is because he gives us in Ted Neeley's Jesus a Christ who is actually destroyed by his own celebrity. So we get, in a sense, a depiction of the downside of fame. This Jesus is destroyed by his own followers in a sense. The crowd more or less consumes this Jesus and he's driven to a kind of despair by the very popularity he engenders. And the Gethsemane scene in "Jesus Christ Superstar" is, in my mind, the greatest Gethsemane scene we've ever had on film because it's this wrenching anguish on the part of Ted Neeley trying to understand how he can possibly take another step forward in life, given the forces that have conspired...



From time to time I am asked where the film cast of JCS is now, and what projects they are currently involved in.  With the latest in those requests coming yesterday (4/4/04) from Alex, I have decided to add a section addressing the question to this page.  Check out the latest with the most notable cast members below:

Ted Neeley (Jesus)

Check anywhere on this site for all of Ted's projects, and his bio.

Carl Anderson (Judas)
Well, we all know of Carl's unfortunate passing, covered elsewhere on this site.  Here is his bio, from his website, for those who wish to know more about his other projects: 

Yvonne Elliman (Mary)
Yvonne is basically out of the business, but here is her bio on her other projects: 

And her website:

Yvonne performed as Mary Magdelene in the JCS 
YouTHeatre-America! benefit in August, 2006.

Barry Dennen (Pilate)
Barry's bio, from his website: 

UPDATE 6/11/05:  Mianne ( found this link, about the new/lost Rock Opera Barry is doing with Murray Head (the original Judas on the Brown album). It's called: "Diminishing Perspective". The album is due out this month (June, 2005), followed by a Broadway production later in the year. Take a look!:

Barry  performed as Pontias Pilate in the JCS 
YouTHeatre-America! benefit in August, 2006.

Bob Bingham (Caiaphas)
Bob's bio includes a 1993 movie: 

Here are a few more sites - although I'm not totally certain that this is the same Bob Bingham:
http://www.musicout artists/binghama lone.htm


Kurt Yaghijan (Annas)
Kurt's bio:

Mikey (Michaelene Greathouse) has also found these links  on Kurt:

Regarding Kurt, he sings on the "Hair" movie soundtrack: "Ain't Got No" with Nell Carter. He is listed as Kurt Yahjian on the credits. He is listed as background vocals on a lot of different albums. He is listed on Vocals on John Lennon & Yoko Ono's albums at:

Kurt "Frenchy" Yahjian plays with the Planotones
Wow - He looks so different!
http://www.planoton htm

It appears that he was in a musical "Duel: a musical" in 2000, (I
just found the web site, I haven't heard the music or seen the play myself):

There is a short 2002 bio at this site:

Josh Mostel (Herod)
Josh, being the son of Zero Mostel, certainly wouldn't disappear anytime soon!  Here's his bio: 

Larry T. Marshall (Simon)
Here is Larry's bio: 
and his website:
http://www.home. earthlink. net/~ltmarshnyc/

Leeyan Granger-Neeley
  (one of the Women/dancers)

For anyone who doesn't know (and if you're reading this, that is very unlikely), there is an actress in the film, who, 
at the time, went under the name of Leeyan Granger. She became the Resident Choreographer for the Houston Repertoire Ballet, and works with the Studio of Dance. She also, perhaps more notably, became Ted's wife, and is now becoming famous for "Granger's Cookies"!  Here's the Ballet Company website: 




These last 2 masterpieces that Maribel sent have got to rank as my all-time favorite shots of Ted from the JCS film.  I've tried to get this image on film for years, unsuccessfully, I might add.  I've asked Maribel to see if she can get this shot off the regular VHS, as widescreen cuts off a lot of heads (my one pet peeve with that particular version of JCS - or any other film, for that matter), but here are the gorgeous shots she did send me now:



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