Upon learning that Marlon Brando played Mark Antony in the 1953 film version of Shakespeare’s Julius CÃ¦sar, a role which Charlton Heston played in the 1970 production (reprising his 1950 performance), a character which Richard Burton played in the celebrated (& controversial) 1963 film, Cleopatra, during the production of which he began his romance with Elizabeth Taylor, I wondered which other screen icon had played the unfortunate Roman politician and soldier.
And then I wondered if perhaps Mark Anthony had been more frequently represented on screen than Julius Cæsar, the man he once served. Rex Harrison played that great Roman opposite Antony in the 1963 film. Sir John Gielgud played him opposite Heston (in 1970) and Louis Calhern opposite Brando. He has more recently been represented by Ciarán Hinds in the HBO series Rome.
Has any historical figure, I wondered, been more frequently represented on the silver screen?
Perhaps, it was England’s Elizabeth I. In 1999, both Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench were nominated for playing the monarch, though in different films. Screen legend Bette Davis also played the virgin queen (twice) as did Helen Mirren, a performance which earned her an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
Or maybe her rival Mary Queen of Scots has been more frequently represented on the silver screen. Samantha Morton played the matriarch of the later English monarchs opposite Blanchett’s second turn as Elizabeth in the 2007 sequel to her 1998 film. The great Katharine Hepburn played the exiled Scottish queen in John Ford‘s 1936 production, Mary of Scotland, Vanessa Redgrave played her in 1971’s Oscar-nominated Mary Queen of Scots, a film in which Glenda Jackson played Queen Elizabeth.
Or maybe perhaps, Elizabeth’s colorful father (Mary’s great uncle), Henry VIII, has been the most represented historical figure on screen. Burton played him in 1969’s Anne of the Thousand Days. Robert Shaw played him in A Man for All Seasons (where Redgrave has a brief cameo of Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn). The fetching Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays him most in the current TV series The Tudors.
Or maybe it’s someone else. So, I wonder, which historical has been most frequently represented on the silver screen?
UPDATE: Having written this post in haste, I spaced on a number of flicks I might otherwise have mentioned, most notably The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex where Davis first played the 16th century monarch.
UP-UPDATE:Â The consensus of the commentary that Jesus has been most frequently portrayed.Â So, let’s eliminate him from the mix and speculate what figure after him was most frequently represented in film?