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Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

Celebrated actor James Faulkner, who stars in the new movie, “Paul, Apostle of Christ” says playing the role of Paui in the film changed him.

Faulkner, a lifelong Anglican was imbued with the spirit of Paul and he found it transforming.

“Playing the role of Paul changed me quite considerably,” Faulkner shared with Beliefnet. “You can’t open your heart to playing Paul without it having an affect on your life.”

He attributed this transformation, at least in part, to writer-director Andrew Hyatt.

“I felt I had been transformed by Andrew’s script and his direction. And an entire page of notes on how to play Paul – nothing precise but overall notes on how I should approach it. I’ve never had a director do something so tellingly about a character.”

The movie focuses on the final 10 days of Paul’s life, when he is in the Mamerine Prison in Rome awaiting his execution under sentence of death by the emperor Nero in a period where Christians were openly persecuted for their faith.

Faulkner dove into Paul’s letters and other biblical sources, which Faulkner dove into during the rather quick turnaround period he had between joining the film and the beginning of shooting.

“To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of time for contemporary research,” Faulkner said. “So naturally, I read his letters, those being the best form of research to give some indication of what he’s writing one-on-one to his correspondents.”

Faulkner found Paul’s letters to be the most fascinating part of his research.

“They’re extraordinary to read. They are rather simple in their approach and in the psychology, but there is this extraordinary love and warmth coming through them,” Faulkner said. “Nothing will sway this man and nothing will sway those that he will bring into his circle.”

While the film is a historical snapshot of early Christianity and the persecution Christians faced in Rome, it also offers an in-depth look at Paul’s phyche in his last days, as he deal with regret from his past transgressions and battles worry that he’s failed in his mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations.

Luke, played by Jim Caviezel, who is best known for his role as Jesus in “the Passion of the Christ,” visits Paul in prison to put the apostle’s story and teaching in writing for distribution to Christians in Rome and abroad. Those writings would late become the book of Acts in the Bible.

Caviezel felt a special calling to play the role of Luke in the film – he looks for stories that have great redemptive qualities because that’s the truth that he knows, he said.

“When I read this, I thought this is more of what I’m supposed to do,” Caviezel said. “I just look for redeemable qualities in it. I think you walk away from a movie like this affected in a lot of ways.”

While Caviezel is known for his biblical roles, playing Paul was quite different than other characters he’s played. What he found most fascinating in his research of Luke was not only his background, but also the way Christ worked through him.

“You’ve got Matthew, you’ve got Mark, you’ve got Luke and here’s a guy who’s a pagan that’s writing one of the gospels,” Caviezel. “Our Lord’s message is universal and it can hit anybody, but we all have an emptiness in our heart.”

There’s a lot viewers can take away from this film, even for those who don’t know Christ.

“I had a friend of mine watch the movie who likes me as a person but doesn’t come from any faith and he watched the movie and was simply blown away,” Caviezel said. “He said, ‘Jim, the writer of this is brilliant and I said, ‘why so,’ and he said, ‘That line ‘To live as Christ, to die is gain,’ is truly brilliant,’ and I said, ‘That was written by Paul.”

A couple days later, Caviezel’s friend asked if he could see his ‘Passion of the Christ’ movie.

“He was right on the edge, and it planted a seed and that’s a big change but he felt loved in the movie and he felt home,” Caviezel said. “That’s all I wanted to convey to people is that our Lord wants them to feel home with Him. He loves them and wants to give them the life they were meant to have.”

“Paul, Apostle of Christ” is in theaters now.

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