• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    Superstar Extras - Interview with Sir Tim Rice

    I recently got hold of a copy of Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) on DVD - well worth it for the extras. The main attraction is a featured commentary with director Norman Jewison, and Ted Neeley (who plays Jesus). I've not had a chance to listen to that yet, but the disc also includes an interview with the musical's lyricist Sir Tim Rice. Much of what Rice says is similar to excerpts from an interview with him used for the Radio 4 programme Silverscreen Beats.

    Rice talks about how he and Lloyd-Webber were put together by an agent, who didn't really like his stuff, but thought Webber would go somewhere. Looking back he realises that releasing the musical as an album made Superstar far more successful than if it had just been produced for the stage from the start.

    It seems strange listening to someone who is now a knight of the realm talking about their days as a young rocker - particularly when it was those younger days that eventually led to their knighthood. You get the feeling that at the time they felt they were doing something slightly anti-establishment and yet as a direct result they have ended up as pat of that establishment. It makes me wonder which of today's shocking rebels will be the Sir Matt Lucases of the future. Anyway I digress.

    Rice also talks about how his sympathies definitely lie with Judas who acted as most people would in his opinion. Superstar is a "human story" rather than religious one, although Rice stresses how it leaves the question of Jesus's divinity open to interpretation.

    He also shrugs off the criticisms of anti-Semitism as "barmy". Personally I never really saw it that way either before all the discussion about The Passion of the Christ, but then it was really only then that I "got it". But in the light of all that discussion, then the way the musical pretty much lets Pilate off the hook, blaming instead the fickle crowd of Jews who quickly switch their loyalties does stray into problem areas. That said, the way the film portrays it, as a group of young hippies acting out the musical, mitigates this somewhat.

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