During the filming of Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Barry Dennen (who played Mendel in the film) suggested to Norman Jewison that he should direct a film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. Jewison heard the album and agreed to do it. Barry Dennen would play Pontius Pilate in the film.
The film was shot primarily on the ruins of the city of Avdat in Israel. Avdat was an important stop on the Incense Route.
Ted Neeley nearly missed out on being seen by Norman Jewison. Neeley had invited the director to see him in a matinee of The Who's Tommy. He had been injured in the previous performance. He recovered in time to perform. As an apology, Neeley dressed up as Jesus and met Jewison at his hotel as he was leaving for Israel to begin work on the film. Jewison accepted the apology and cast him anyway.
"Then We are Decided" was written for the film. It has not been used in a production since.
Several lyrics were changed both for the sake of the material and also to avoid controversy.