Screen Pilates: Stephen Moyer


Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks and Cyril Richard may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here and here.

Stephen Moyer portrays Pilate in the upcoming National Geographic TV Killing Jesus, which is being shown on Palm Sunday at 7:00 PM Central Time.  Based on the book Killing Jesus, by Bill O’Reilly, who improbably has reaped a fortune from Killing Lincoln, Killing KennedyKilling Patton and now Killing Jesus, I will watch  this and attempt to rid my mind against my settled conviction that O’Reilly is a buffoon and a blowhard of the first order.  To be fair I have watched both of the television movies based on Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy and enjoyed both of them.

Stephen Moyer is the first screen portrayal of Pilate in the Screen Pilates series whose performance has not yet been released to the public.  I am bringing it to the attention of the blog now, in order for blog readers to watch the film and give their opinions regarding the performance in the combox after the movie.  Moyer has described himself as a lapsed atheist so that might add an interesting touch to his portrayal.

From the film clip it appears as if Moyer might be portraying Pilate as a harried politician, but no assessment of the performance will be made by me until after the film when I will update this post.


Well that was disappointing.  Moyer played Pilate as a weak man.  Throughout the film Caiaphas is putting pressure on him to have Jesus executed.  After Jesus is scourged, Pilate says that scourging is enough, and that He may not survive the scourging anyway, since many do not.  Caiaphas repeats the demand, Pilate nods weakly, and Jesus is crucified.  No second trial before Pilate.  No Ecce Homo, no Barabbas and no washing of hands.  It was like watching Hamlet in a version where the “To Be or Not to Be” speech is cut.  A waste of three hours.


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  1. They were both very good performances. What is notable for me is how good the performances as Pilate have been. The role seems to cause actors to summon their very best when it comes to portraying the man who unknowingly judged God.

  2. I’ve always felt Pilate to be the worst human character acting in the murder of Jesus. He knows Jesus is innocent, but instead of doing his duty and releasing him, he knowingly does evil by sentencing an innocent man to death. Of course everyone is a sinner, and all the actors in Christ’s death are motivated by some sinful inpulse (Jewish temple authorities by pride, Judas by greed). But Pilate is motivated by political expedience.

  3. From Don’s wife Cathy: The film seemed to give naturalistic explanations for phenomena described in the Bible (f.ex., the boy “possessed by demons” appeared to be having an epileptic seizure), and the miraculous healing of that boy & the filling of Peter’s fishing net are shown to be caused by prayer to God (the Father), rather than by any direct action or words of Jesus (as God the Son). Very few actual miracles depicted (those 2 & the Resurrection the only ones I noticed), and Christ does not appear on-screen post-Resurrection. I’m a little surprised that, considering Mr. O’Reilly’s Catholic background, this depiction of the life of Christ wasn’t closer to the traditional Biblical description. Were the producer & director of the “Killing Jesus” TV movie going for such an ecumenical depiction of Jesus that it would be acceptable to non-Christians?

  4. I, too, noticed the absence of miracles and the general ‘pick and choose” aspect of the narrative. No feeding the five-thousand, no Lazarus resurrection. When the temple guard’s ear was cut off in Gethsemane, Jesus didn’t heal it. And then there were scenes that were just out of nowhere like Judas buying a rope from the goat-herder. What was the point of adding something that has no Biblical basis?

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