For Shakespeare, the play’s the thing; for Caviezel, it’s the script

Jim Caviezel as Luke and James Faulkner as Paul are seen in the film “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” “His message of love and life and mercy is so important for us today,” said Eric Groth, one of the executive producers of the new movie. He spoke to an invitation-only audience of about 60 at a Feb. 15 advance screening of the film at St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures)

by Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Actor Jim Caviezel is at a point in his career where he can choose what film and TV projects he wants to pursue.

Even though Caviezel might be best known for his portrayal of Jesus in 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” — six seasons on CBS’ “Person of Interest” this decade might have topped that — he decided to take on yet another biblical role as St. Luke in the upcoming movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ.”

“You don’t go by genre, you go by the script,” Caviezel told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 26 telephone interview to promote the movie. He’s not against movie projects that don’t have a biblical grounding: “It didn’t matter. You can sit down and read comedies. I haven’t found one yet.”

But when it came to “Paul,” “Andrew Hyatt wrote a great script. You know the material,” Caviezel said, adding, “Who played Paul was a big part. When they got [James] Faulkner, I knew they’ll be calling him Paul in the street just like they called me Jesus in the street” after “The Passion.”

Caviezel liked the script so much, in fact, he became one of the executive producers of “Paul.”

He doesn’t worry about being typecast as someone wedded to the biblical film genre, although he had turned down “many, many” offers after “The Passion” for similar roles.

“If you’re Will Farrell, do you say, ‘It’s a comedy, I can’t do that anymore’? Let’s see here, if you’re [Arnold] Schwarzenegger, ‘It’s an action film, I can’t do that anymore,'” Caviezel said. “You’ve seen a lot of biblical movies lately. You’ve seen them in ‘Star Wars,’ you’ve seen them in ‘The Hobbit.’ They’re allegories. That is what they are.”

As a husband and father, he said of his own movie tastes: “I like the old films a lot. I like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I enjoyed the ‘Star Wars’ movies, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ probably one of my favorites. I loved ‘[Saving] Private Ryan, ‘Schindler’s List,’ I loved ‘The Mission.’ Of course, ‘Braveheart.'” The latter film was directed by and starred Mel Gibson, who directed “The Passion.”

In a 2002 interview with CNS, Caviezel said he always wanted to act in movies with “roles that are redeemable,” even if his own character in that film wasn’t the redeemable one — although it could be argued that in “The Passion,” his character was the redeeming one.

“That’s never changed,” Caviezel said 16 years later. “It’s the only thing interesting to me. . .  But the truth, the real truth, the tip of the spear — massively controversial, like our Lord — the spear enters into the heart and wounds very deeply.” In “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” he added, “it goes deeply into what I think is one of the greatest controversies. That’s forgiveness at all cost. Meeting evil face to face.”

Making “The Passion,” he said, took a lot out of him physically. “It nearly killed me. Not many people get struck by lightning; I did. Five and a half months of cold. I had to have two heart surgeries, including open-heart surgery, because of that film.

“Going out in the cold, at night, and the wind chill, was tremendous. We were at a thousand-foot cliff and the winds would come down on top of it. I had a dislocated left shoulder. On top of that I had pneumonia. I got really sick,” he recalled. “But if we had shot that film in a studio, you wouldn’t have seen that performance. Was it worth it? Absolutely.”

Careful viewers of “Paul” will get a glimpse of Christ in one scene. There’s no mention in the cast list as to who plays the part. Was it Caviezel reprising the role? His answer: “No, it was not me, sir.”

Copyright ©2018 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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