Author: Ira Wells

When Norman Jewison Turned His Camera on the Ultimate Superstar

While some critics would later struggle to find a thematic through-line connecting Norman Jewison’s films, the Canadian director often identified his signature theme as betrayal. His 1973 musical drama Jesus Christ Superstar, adapted from the 1970 concept album of the same name, allowed Jewison to tackle the archetypal betrayal narrative in Western culture while simultaneously creating something completely original: the first filmed rock opera. Some thought it was an odd subject for a Jewish director. But contrary to popular misunderstanding (which can be traced in part to his 1971 adaptation of the Jewish-themed musical comedy-drama Fiddler on the Roof), Jewison isn’t actually Jewish. In fact, he grew up in Toronto as the son of a Protestant convenience store owner. Coming off his work on Fiddler, he joked to a friend, “I thought I should do something for the goyim.” Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice had begun writing the songs that would become Jesus Christ Superstar in 1969, when they were still in their mid-20s. Rice was inspired by a few lines from Bob Dylan’s …