'The Movie Was Torture--But Worth It'

An interview with actor Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ.'

Reprinted with permission of the National Catholic Register.

Jim Caviezel was already a devout Catholic when he got the role of Christ in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. But after acting out Christ's harrowing death in the movie, scheduled to be released Ash Wednesday, he says his faith is stronger still.


How did you get the part of Christ?

It all started when I got a phone call from my agent saying that Steve McEveety, Mel Gibson's partner, wanted to meet with me on a film called Mavericks. What I later found from Steve and Mel was that was just a front to see what I was really like. So we met at some picnic table up in Malibu, and we started talking.

It went on for about three and a half hours, and Mel finally brings up this story about what he's been thinking about for many years.

He asked, "You know how Jesus really died?" And it hit me and I just said, "You want me to play Jesus, don't you?"

He stopped and looked at me and said, "Yeah."

The next day he called me and said, "Do you still want to do this movie? If I were you, I wouldn't want to play this role." It was like he was trying to talk me out of it, because it could be a career killer. And my response was that each one of us has our own cross to carry - we either pick it up and carry it or we get crushed under the weight of it.

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Was there anything in particular Gibson had you do to prepare for the part?

Mel and I are just administrators of God's work, and that's all that we continually ask for. And that's why we centered every day on the Mass and receiving the Eucharist. There was not one day that I was on film that I didn't receive Communion. I just try to be the best Catholic. I go back to the truth - what does the Lord want? It always comes down to that - what does the Lord want?

What did you have to go through to make the part work?

This movie was torture right from the beginning in all forms. I was spit on, beaten, and I carried my cross for days, over and over the same road; it was brutal. I had a 2 a.m. call time to get skin and makeup put on for the flagellation and crucifixion scenes, so I was there long before the rest of the cast and crew.

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