Playing Jesus Christ lands actor Robert Powell with centre seat at the ultimate supper table

by Jeremy Miles

Playing Jesus Christ for Franco Zeffirelli 35 years ago has clearly paid dividends for actor Robert Powell. He’s been placed in the central position in photographer Alistair Morrison’s Actors Last Supper which is on display at the National Portrait Gallery.

Powell has been a stalwart of stage and screen for the past 40 years and has forged a reputation for the sheer breadth of his talents. Equally adept at high-brow and populist material, he has made critically acclaimed appearances for not just Zeffirelli but also directors like  Ken Russell who cast him in the title role in Mahler.

Robert Powell: Photo Hattie Miles

Robert Powell: Photo Hattie Miles

However Powell is just as happy  playing knockabout sit-com with his mate Jasper Carrott or appearing in popular TV dramas like  Holby City. He recently joined the cast of the latest West End production of the hit musical Singin’ in the Rain too. No wonder  Morrison chose him as one of the 13 leading British actors and directors he used to recreate, photographically, Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic 15th Century painting The Last Supper.

Morrison, who over the past 30 years has photographed everyone from Bette Davis to Laurence Olivier, used  a cast that in addition to Powell included Steven Berkoff, Anthony Andrews, Simon Callow, Tom Conti, Peter Eyre, Sir Richard Eyre, Colin Firth, Sir Michael Gambon, Tim Piggott-Smith, Sir Antony Sher, John Alderton and Julie Walters

The portrait, which is over three metres long, was originally among images created to raise funds for a childrens charity through Variety’s Hidden Gems project. It has now been acquired for The National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.

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