Jim Caviezel ('Passion of the Christ')
'The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth'
A tall, good-looking rising star with piercing blue eyes, Jim Caviezel spent his formative years in the Pacific Northwest. Although he planned to play basketball at the University of Washington, he was sidelined with and injury and "discovered" the acting program. After graduating, Caviezel appeared in several stage roles in Seattle-area productions before landing his first film role as an airline clerk in Gus Van Sant's 'My Own Private Idaho' (1991).
Moving to L.A., he quickly landed parts on TV series like "The Wonder Years", stage roles and eventually more prominent roles in films. Lawrence Kasdan tapped him to portray Warren Earp in his biographical film 'Wyatt Earp' (1994). Caviezel was then a teammate of Matt Le Blanc's in the dreadful 'Ed' and a pilot in 'The Rock' (both 1996) before appearing as a recruit training for the Navy SEALs alongside Demi Moore's 'G.I. Jane' (1997).
The actor's profile and stock in Hollywood rose significantly with his next two projects, Terrence Malick's WWII ensemble drama 'The Thin Red Line' (1998) and Ang Lee's Civil War epic 'Ride With the Devil' (1999). Since then he has appeared in such films as 'Frequency' (2000), 'Angel Eyes' (2001), and both 'The Count of Monte Cristo' and 'High Crimes' in 2002.
And unless you've been hiding away under a rock for the past year or so, Caviezel is appearing on the big screen as Jesus in Mel Gibson's ultra-risky, ultra-brave directorial debut, 'The Passion of the Christ' In this latest cinematic adaptation it shows what takes place over the last 12 hours of Christ's life, on the day of his Crucifixion, and is told in both Latin and Aramaic.
You were hit by lighting on the set. Did anything weird happen to you after you were hit?! "The day I got hit with lighting, about three seconds before it hit me I knew it was going to happen, and there was like a bubble effect that happens before it hits you. I locked eyes with two people and the eeriest thing was when the plane went into the south tower of the building is the same screaming sound you heard. I only recognize that when I saw it again, the plane going in. It just jarred me. Thatís the sound that people usually make when something terrifying happens and itís a sickening feeling."
Did the strike leave anything visually different about you afterwards? "Well, my hair was all standing up," he laughs.
Did the film camera catch it happening? "This is what happened, this is what you see. You go ĎAction,í and heís panning, heís panning, heís panning, heís panning, and you see the camera going [moves hands around in front of him] ĎWhat the heck.í Right around here [panning with hands from right to left and stopping halfway to center] you see the light go pow like that and then it gets there [in front of him] and you see the hair all freaked out!"
Do you really think it was a sign from above?! "No, I think I needed to act better," he sheepishly laughs again.
Being a strong Catholic, how did you come into playing Jesus? "I felt like if I didnít take it I would be ridiculous, not working with a guy like Mel Gibson. I mean, when he told me the story and what he wanted to do, thatís okay. If he wanted to say, ĎHey Iím going to make an anti-Semitic film. Would you like to join me?í Iím not going to be a part of a film like that, then that would be a lie to my faith, and that would be a mortal sin and so whatís the purpose of making it. I donít care what director it is. So when I got this role I just accepted the responsibility, and figured what actors wouldnít want to play this role. Especially with someone like Mel!"
Did you do any special research on the 'character'?! "Well, I went into this eyes wide open. If you play a doctor you do what a doctor does, you be around doctors. If you play a lawyer same thing, and this one I read the gospels and the different accounts, and went to the places. I went to la scala, the stairs where he climbed up to Pontius Pilate, went to the place where PeteróPaul was executed outside the wall, and other such places."
How were you able to play a character that you respect so much? "But other people donít, so you have to make a decision, even in any religion, certain people respect Mohamed some people donít, some people respect Moses some people donít. Youíre going to be persecuted one way or another for any place you have."
As a Catholic, would you change anything in the film? "Never, nothing, it is as it was."
How difficult was it to learn Aramaic? "It was difficult but the Aramaic, the Hebrew, and Latin were much easier then the physical! The physical was horrendous. Here you are you go to work and tie one eye behind your back, which now you got headaches. Looking through one eye all day, and youíve got these thorns and they tie them on as hard as they can Ďcause they move. And the cross weighs 125 pounds and now feels like its 600 pounds as the day goes on. You separate your shoulder; now Iím in a sling! They then stick you on a cross with 25 degree temperature with 30 knot winds coming up this 1000 foot bank! If you go to the circus and you see those wheels and the person is tied to it and they throw knives and they miss, just barely miss the guy. It was like they were all hitting me, the knives, they wind would just go right through you. And everyone is in mittens and thick clothes and stuff. Get struck by lighting, you better do something. And so it forces you into a deeper place and it was to come from here [points to his head and heart] and the suffering is the glory."
Did you ever worry that if you screwed it up the big guy would remember when your big day came?! "I think he would probably give me a pass if at least I tried," he laughs.
Where does your faith come from and how did you translate it to this role? "I donít know, I was always drawn to the truth and the same as in acting, and when Iím looking at something if Iím playing the Ralph Fiennes role in ĎSchindlerís List.í What I love about that role, you know, evil has its own charm. It seduces you. You should be seduced, hatred has many different, yet appealing sides. Itís power and all that stuff on that side. On the other side if I get to play Jesus Christ all these things like the humility, the Lamb of God, what is this? A little piece of lamb, pure, itís so wimpy, and this is the worlds thinking of Bethlehem, the little stable, the mother that couldnít get a Four Seasons Hotel, be born in a stable. This is God, this gentle loving God; itís both truth and grace. I said ĎGod use me.í At some point I decided, ĎLook, if you are real, you exist, then you come inside of me if thatís true. Go ahead, Iím giving you free range here and Iím trying to be honest. Iíll take my door into my soul and say, go ahead and play.í And what you see up there, is what you see, full of truth and grace, both, not one, not one or the other. Years ago youíd have this, and then youíd have too much fire and brimstone and you basically fell short, and be like Judas and hang yourself. Then you have grace like you have now and it is sentimental hogwash, and you sleep with Suzy on Friday, Katherine on Saturday and go to church on Sunday and the blood washes all. Itís sentimental hogwash. So itís both, not one or the other. And film people talk about this anti-Semitic and dividing this and that, the divider here is Diablo, Devil. Heís divider, and heís the one thatís doing the dividing among race, religion, and everything. God is everywhere, in the gentleness of nature, in the stars and planets. Iím drawn to that, knowing that thereís something out there. Thereís gotta be more than just me, and looking at the story and where he came from and how it all came to be. At the beginning of the film you see this quote and itís pointing in the direction of 400 hundred years before it even happened. At the end of the day it always comes down to faith anyway, but I want to at least offer someone the opportunity to look at it and say, Ďthis is a possibility'."
Finally, would you say that one had to be religious to be able to see this movie? "No, you donít have to be religious to see this film. I mean, yes you can be religious but you don't have to be! Whatever, but how do you say that? I say, Ďvery simple.í When you go into the Vatican, do you have to be religious to go inside the Vatican? No. Do you have to be religious to understand the Pieta, Michelangelo? Is it meant for only PhDís or theologians, or people with letters, or artists, no. Itís meant for all people, for all times, same thing with this film."
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