The beardless stranger was one of the 6 boys we recruited for the movie. We were filming in the West Bank and we needed lots of extras: locating them is my job. Every day I would tell the youth hostel in Tel Aviv what we needed and every day the backpackers would get excited and sign up; they got food, transport and 65 Lirot pay. Today we needed Roman soldiers. They’d look great; I was convinced we’d get an Oscar for our costume design.
We bussed them into the West Bank in time for a 9am start, to a place called Kefar Qasim. We avoided the village, site of a massacre by the Israeli Defence Forces in the 1950s, and headed on to a nearby fort. It was once a British police-station and the stonework still showed the bullet-holes from the 1948 War. We use the fort as our base and I got the youth hostellers to change into their uniforms. We then drove them off into the barren hills, nothing but rocks, trees and dusty earth – oh, and cameras, engineers and 8 heavily-bearded apostles. There was also Jesus who was about to be arrested by some Roman soldiers, a key scene in ‘The Passover Plot’. The soldiers looked good: hair shirt, black leather tunic with spangles, belt, armlets and a heavy brass helmet. I’d been careful that they took off watches, spectacles and so on. The stranger said he had shaved off his beard earlier that month. He wouldn’t have been with us otherwise: Roman soldiers did not have beards.