A few thoughts for you: Our Lord is Divine and human. Two natures in one Person. That alone explains the casting of the character of Our Lord being different from that of the Apostles. They weren’t divine, but human. Second, these are names of male cast members, pulled from the IMDB page on the movie.
Francesco De Vito....Peter
Hristo Shopov....Pontius Pilate
Giacinto Ferro....Joseph of Arimathea
Lucio Allocca....Old Temple Guard
Paco Reconti....Whipping Guard
Adel Bakri....Temple Guard
Luciano Dragone....Second Man
Adel Ben Ayed....Thomas
Francesco De Rosa....Accuser
Maurizio Di Carmine....Elder
Angelo Di Loreta....Elder
Andrea Coppola....Grizzled Beard
Romuald Andrezej Klos....Roman Soldier
Giuseppe Lo Console....Roman Soldier
Dario D’Ambrosi...Roman Soldier
Luciano Federico...Man in Audience
Now, as you can see, the vast majority of these folks are doubtless Italian actors. I’ve included this many not to belabor the point so much as to underscore it, lest anyone think I’ve been cherry-picking. You could perhaps say that Mel’s casting director, Shaila Rubin (you should see her resumé) may have chosen actors whose appearance she thought suitable for portraying the population of Jerusalem in the first century. But you could also (in a more frivolous manner) state just how older Italian actors can resemble perceived stereotypes of first century Jews. Either way, a masterpiece of a movie. No racism involved. And because text doesn’t properly convey it, please, picture my having said this in a calm, matter-of-fact, conversational tone. ;) That’s truly how I mean it.
Actually, Mel purposely made the actor who played Jesus (Jim Cavizel) look more Jewish by altering his nose by make-up. I always got the impression he was going after realism, not in stereotyping.
I’m of Mexican extraction and I consider myself pretty keen on what’s stereotyping and what isn’t. Stereotyping does exist, of course, but some people call “Stereotype!” at the drop of a hat by being over-sensitive. With all the hoopla surrounding the film, I actually made a point to look for it while watching the film and I just didn’t see it.