Oscar winner Mel Gibson said he found his perfect Jesus by casting Jim Caviezel in the pivotal role for his controversial Passion of the Christ, having seen the actor in The Thin Red Line.
The quietly spoken Caviezel, a devout Catholic, admitted surprise. “I thought he would have seen me as Satan or something,” he said jokingly. “Well he didn’t know anything about me or whether I had any faith or anything that would have come across when he chose me. At that point I didn’t really think about it all, but rather: My God can I get my hands around this Aramaic, this Latin or this Old Hebrew?”
That would end up being the least of Caviezel’s problems, however. Amidst freezing temperatures, Jim had to endure much physical anguish for this role of a lifetime, further admitting they were tools he ended up using in his performance. “Film tells you how it is supposed to be made, says one of my good director friends Kevin Reynolds. Nature, time, and money all those things play into effect. I started out with a shoulder injury which separated my shoulder and then the make up times were the worse from like two in the morning to ten. Then after that you go and fight hyperthermia and freezing cold. Then pretty soon we learned that the crown of thorns had been moving around too much so they had to tighten them on which had caused headaches. Also the eye that was closed caused me to hyper focus. The shoulder was the worst part of everything because of the thirty knot winds that were coming up from the canyon and they would hit that cross which would start to move and every time it moved it would try to pull my AC joint out and it was unbearable. I don’t know how I barely made it but it forced me to go into the arms of God and forced me to pray in the deepest places from my heart.”
Like his director, doing this film further reinforced the actor’s own Catholicism. “I had to carry this cross that was killing me and by the end of the day it felt like 600 pounds but still, we went to the Mass everyday, I took Eucharist everyday I got into my role, so during the last supper scenes that were happening, we were going through that everyday in the Mass.”
As for the anti-Semitic charges, Caviezel finds it ridiculous. “I think groups are using it to make a lot of money. They’re filling their coffers with money and frightening their own people. This is absolutely ridiculous. This Pope has done more for Jewish Christians then any other Pope in history. He has seen this film, and has said it as it was.”
Caviezel defines the film as a “Jesus and Mother love story and the greatest love story.” Unable to quite respond to the question: Why is this film relevant to a contemporary, secular audience? Caviezel merely offers the following: “It either does something to you or it doesn’t, it is either part of your bag or it’s not, but I tell you what it does do. It says: You know, you will be judged ferociously.”