Screen Pilates: Hurd Hatfield


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, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Keith Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth, David Bowie and Lowell Gilmore may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here and here.

Of all the big budget Biblical epics of Hollywood, King of Kings (1961) gets the least respect and perhaps deservedly so.  The film is notable for being the first big budget Hollywood movie to depict Christ directly, with Jeffrey Hunter in the title role.  Although Hunter was the correct age, 33, he looked far younger and the film has sometimes been nicknamed “I Was A Teenage Christ”.

Veteran actor Hurd Hatfield portrayed Pilate.  It is an interesting portrayal with Pilate cool, haughty and officially correct in his examination of Christ and highly emotional behind the scenes.  Josephus depicts Pilate as being irascible and possessed of a violent temper and Hatfield gives us that dimension of Pilate.

Hatfield does what he can but at 168 minutes King of Kings comes across as bloated and filled with completely fictional side stories that merely slow down the film.  Christ is depicted on screen in only about half the film.  The picture could have been shorn down to 120 minutes with virtually nothing of substance being lost.

More to explorer


  1. Problem with most of the portrayals is that they appear to reflect a limited part of Pilate’s character. This is understandable as biblical information is quite sketchy and there is little secular material available on the man. The recent portrayal in “Killing Jesus”, which is a sort of composite and on CNN, “The Bible” are probably about as good as any. The actions he took (or refrained from taking) are probably more illustrative of the man than any dry comments that others can make. In any event, there is certainly room for a rather wide latitude in depicting the man as long as the essential facts are kept in context.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: