Yorgo Voyagis, who plays Joseph (Mary's husband), can be seen speaking in English, but his voice is dubbed by an uncredited actor. Voyagis' real voice can be heard in the Diane Keaton film The Little Drummer Girl. Franco Zeffirelli also used this technique with a few of the actors in his film version of Romeo and Juliet.
Banned in Egypt after religious leaders objected to its content.
Rarely during the movie do any of the actors portraying Jesus blink their eyes. Director 'Franco Zeffirelli' decided on this as a means of creating a subconscious visual mystique about the character that not only differentiated him from all other characters, and is eerily effective. The boy Jesus in the Temple blinks twice in the Temple, and the adult Jesus blinks only once on film.
The eye makeup for Robert Powell consisted of a thin line of dark blue eyeliner on the upper lid of the eye, and a thin line of white eyeliner on the lower lid. This had the effect of highlighting the piercing blue of the actor's eyes, thus giving him a penetrating stare, when combined with very little blinking, made the character appear surreal and supernatural.
'Peter OToole was cast as Judas, but had to back out of the project due to illness.
Maria Schneider was originally offered the role of the Virgin Mary but declined and later regretted the decision.