I have a lot of practice acting like Judas. I think to varying degrees we all do, and we try to do better.
There are an awful lot of Biblical movies coming out, I suppose because it will soon be Lent and people will want to watch famous actors play famous Bible characters.
Hollywood has been doing it for years, which tells you they’re not losing money on it. Portuguese heartthrob Diogo Morgado opens today in Son of God, the big-screen adaptation of the little screen hit The Bible. In fact he stopped by our offices the other day and did a video for us you should definitely watch.
Then comes Russell Crowe in a few weeks as Noah. Despite his occasional fits of phone throwing in hip New York hotels and other relatively minor infractions of accepted etiquette, I love Russell Crowe as an actor, especially in Gladiator, where he utterly personified honor, and as the intrepid and courageous English naval captain in Master and Commander, a portrayal that would have made his creator, novelist Patrick O’Brian, proud. I think he was an inspired choice to play Noah because they are both so human, so full of contradictions and conflicts.
Lots of great actors have played great Bible figures. Think of Charlton Heston as Moses, Edward G. Robinson as Aaron. Max von Sydow played a kind of mystical Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told while John Wayne himself played the Roman centurion. Telly Savalas, of all people, was Pontius Pilate!
Didn’t John Travolta play a slightly seedy Archangel Michael once? I think it was a Nora Ephron movie.
All of this got me thinking what Bible character I would want to portray in a movie. King David, of course, immediately came to mind for reasons I won’t go into but are pretty obvious. Samson had some fun but he doesn’t strike me as the sharpest arrow in the quiver. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, was a remarkable soul. But do you know what personage I would really love to play? Judas.
To truly betray someone you must also be very close to them. The Irish band U2 has a very moving song narrated by Judas and sung to Jesus as a love song from the deepest pit of hell, expressing that some day at “the end of the world” he will be finally forgiven for doing what had to be done. What an interesting, conflicted character. What an amazing idea for a song.
But mostly I am qualified to play Judas because I betray Jesus almost daily, sometimes hourly. When I turn away from the poor and the sick, the innocent and the vulnerable, I betray Jesus just as Judas did. My pieces of gold are my indifference. When I see injustice and cruelty and inequality and don’t speak up, I betray Jesus. When I fail to be kind, I am a betrayer. When I pull back instead of reaching out, I betray Jesus just as surely as Judas did.
So I have a lot of practice acting like Judas. I think to varying degrees we all do, and we try to do better.
Putting aside Judas for a moment, what Biblical character would you like to be cast as? Post below. And tell me what you thought of these movies, too.