The ‘Passion of the Christ’ actor talks about the challenges of playing iconic roles, why pious films are often lame and why good movies aren’t always family-friendly.
Actors who play iconic roles sometimes regret it afterward, not least because their careers often suffer later. Jim Caviezel has said Mel Gibson warned him that playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ would hurt his career — but he has no regrets about playing the most iconic role of all time.
Caviezel never again played a central role in a Hollywood film like Frequency, The Count of Monte Cristo or High Crimes, though he did find mainstream success on the small screen as the lead in the critical and popular hit series Person of Interest, which ran five seasons. On the big screen, he played a terrorist in the Denzel Washington thriller Déjà Vu and has taken a number of roles in indies and faith-based films like When the Game Stands Tall.
Now, for the first time since The Passion, Caviezel has returned to the Bible-film genre to play the role of St Luke the Evangelist in the upcoming film Paul, Apostle of Christ, written and directed by Andrew Hyatt (Full of Grace) and produced by Sony’s faith-based label Affirm Films.
Caviezel recently spoke: “Going into that world — playing Our Lord — was … I didn’t know how to do it, and I said, “I’m not going to play Jesus. I want him to play me.” It’s the same thing with Luke. I’m praying very deeply.
Recently, I was watching one of the players of the Dallas Cowboys making the Sign of the Cross before they kicked off to him. I guess when you’ve got those guys running at you, going at full speed, and a collision could happen and you could tear your knee, you gotta go into it knowing [the challenge]. I do the same thing on my films. I am praying for the audience — that what I read on script is conveyed to the person in the theatre, and that they have the possibility of changing their lives. When you are playing Jesus or Luke or Paul … it just requires someone like me to get out of the way. And that’s what I pray about.”
“I think one part of it is that he was a physician, and he had this particular lifestyle — he was wealthy, and he left it all. Why? He saw Paul speak. Was it Paul who spoke, or was it Christ speaking through him? I believe it was the latter, and that changed his life. So that’s kind of where I started.”