Barry Dennen, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ actor and Barbra Streisand ex, dies at 79

Barry Dennen, member of the original cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” died Tuesday at age 79, his reps told TheWrap. The actor died in hospice care in Burbank after suffering a brain injury from a fall in June.

Dennen played Pontius Pilate, the man who sentenced Jesus Christ to death, on the original recording and in the 1973 film. Prior to that, Dennen had a brief relationship with Barbra Streisand in the early 1960s, when he helped her develop the nightclub act that kickstarted her career. Dennen wrote about his time with Streisand in a 1997 book called “My Life With Barbra,” discussing how he introduced her to the world of Cabaret and helped designed her outfits while privately coming to terms with his homosexuality.

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Barry Dennen throughout his life
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Barry Dennen throughout his life
CIRCA 1970: (Top L-R) Murray Head as Judas. Ian Gillan as Jesus (Bottom L-R) Barry Dennen as the Pilate. Michael d'Abo as King Herod for the Andrew Lloyd Webber recording of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' circa 1970. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
MR. BELVEDERE - 'Spot' - Airdate: January 13, 1989. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) L-R: MICHELE MATHESON;DARCY MARTA;TRACY WELLS;BARRY DENNEN
MR. BELVEDERE - 'Spot' - Airdate: January 13, 1989. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) PAMELA MATHESON;BARRY DENNEN
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 13: (L-R) Actor Jack Black, actress Yvonne Elliman, actor Barry Dennen and actor Ted Neeley appear on stage for the curtain call at a special performance of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' benefiting the YouTHeatre-America! at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre on August 13, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 13: Actor Jack Black (L) and actor Barry Dennen (R) appear on stage for the curtain call at a special performance of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' benefiting the YouTHeatre-America! at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre on August 13, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 13: Actor Jack Black (L) and actor Barry Dennen (R) appear on stage for the curtain call at a special performance of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' benefiting the YouTHeatre-America! at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre on August 13, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
Barry Dennen (Photo by Ron Wolfson/WireImage)
Barry Dennen during 'Jesus Christ Superstar' Los Angeles Performance - August 13, 2006 at Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Wolfson/WireImage)
Ted Neeley and Barry Dennen during 'Jesus Christ Superstar' Los Angeles Performance - August 13, 2006 at Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Wolfson/WireImage)
Jack Black, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen, Ted Neeley, Ben Vereen and Clint Holmes (Photo by Ron Wolfson/WireImage)
Barry Dennen, Yvonne Elliman and Ben Vereen during 'Jesus Christ Superstar' Los Angeles Performance - August 13, 2006 at Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Wolfson/WireImage)
PARSIPPANY, NJ - OCTOBER 26: Barry Dennen attends the Chiller Theatre Expo at Sheraton Parsippany Hotel on October 26, 2013 in Parsippany, New Jersey. (Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)
PARSIPPANY, NJ - OCTOBER 26: Barry Dennen and Ted Neeley attends the Chiller Theatre Expo at Sheraton Parsippany Hotel on October 26, 2013 in Parsippany, New Jersey. (Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: (Front row) Kurt Yaghjian, Norman Jewison, Ted Neeley, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen, (Back Row) Josh Mostel, Bob Bingham and Larry Marshall attend the 'Jesus Christ Superstar' original cast reunion Q&A and Screening of the film at the Beekman Theatre on April 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Rahav Segev/Getty Images)
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Born and raised in Chicago, Dennen got his big break as a stage actor in 1968 as the master of ceremonies in the West End version of “Cabaret.” Two years later, he was cast to play Pontius Pilate in “Superstar.” In the role, he performed the song “Pilate’s Dream,” in which the Roman prefect sings of a dream he had about meeting Jesus, and seeing “thousands of millions” crying for him and blaming Pilate for his death.

Dennen also held minor roles in “The Shining” and “Fiddler On The Roof,” and could be seen as one of the passengers in James Cameron’s “Titanic” while the ship was sinking. He has also done voice work on several animated TV shows, including “Batman: The Animated Series,” “DuckTales,” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Dennen is survived by his adopted sons Timothy and Barnaby, and his brother, Lyle.

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