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Jim Caviezel Talks About Playing Christ in 'The Passion'


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This is Part I of Scott Ross/Jim Caviezel Interview (Read Part II)

Shannon Woodland - 700 Club Producer

Jim Caviezel is a respectable actor with a respectable career. The Count of Monte Cristo, The Thin Red Line, Pay It Forward, and Angel Eyes are just a few of his films. But one of his most recent roles may jeopardize his respectability -- Jim plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's controversial film, The Passion of The Christ.

In an interview with CBN's Scott Ross, Caviezel went to great depths to help people understand what it means to play the crucified Savior.

SCOTT ROSS: How old were you when you played in the film?

JIM CAVIEZEL: It is interesting. The day after I accepted the role, I got a phone call from Mel. He said, 'Hi, this is Mel.' 'Mel who?' For some reason, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise -- that's how I know them. I don't know them by just first name. He said, 'Hey, Jim, this is Mel.' He started talking about this movie and started talking me out of the role.

SCOTT ROSS: Talking you out of it? This is after he offered it to you?

JIM CAVIEZEL: The next day, he said, 'I want you to be aware of what you are going to go through. You may never work again.' He said that several times publicly. I told him, 'Mel, this is what I believe. We all have a cross to carry. I have to carry my own cross. If we don't carry our crosses, we are going to be crushed under the weight of it. So let's go and do it.' And we began with the film.

SCOTT ROSS: How old were you?

JIM CAVIEZEL: I told Mel, 'It is eerie. My initials are J.C. and I am 33 years old.' That was it.

SCOTT ROSS: What was your initial gut response to it?

JIM CAVIEZEL: I was half exhilarated and half terrified, honestly. I felt that the whole way through.

SCOTT ROSS: What did you bring to it, not just as an actor, but how do you prepare to play the Son of God?

JIM CAVIEZEL: It's a great question. How do you prepare? By fire. Looking back, there were two words, 'unquenchable fire.' What was hard was the physical, the suffering. Makeup time started from 2 a.m. and it went until 10 a.m. -- that alone right there, the boredom, not just the boredom, but the uncomfortable position. You're never sitting down. After day in and day out of this, plus the hypothermia, plus I had a separated shoulder, it forced me to pray. I had to go to a place of something really deep because I was going crazy.

SCOTT ROSS: You said you went into prayer. Is that something you believed anyway prior to the part? You are a believer?

JIM CAVIEZEL: Well, there's no question that I believe. I think many of your viewers know what I'm talking about. Why would you subject yourself to persecution unless you know that that's the truth? And let me tell you, I was on that cross. Many people who looked up there, I may be playing Christ, but a lot of times I felt like Satan. I had obscenities wanting to come out of me. It was so cold it was like knives coming through me. I had hypothermia. I don't know whether you've dealt with that, but on one day of hypothermia I was so cold I could barely get the lines out. My mouth was shaking uncontrollably. My arms and legs went numb. I was suffocating on that cross. In the mean time, you watch people have coffee and laugh. They were very indifferent about what I was going through.

SCOTT ROSSS: Was that true across the board with the cast or with the crew?

JIM CAVIEZEL: No, we had very sympathetic people. Like in all humanity, we had sympathetic people, and indifferent people, and people who were repelled by it. Watching that I wanted to burst out in my own humanity and tell this guy to shut up or take off.

SCOTT ROSS: Which was very opposite of what Jesus did in forgiving His enemies.

JIM CAVIEZEL: Then at that point what do you do? I'm a craftsman. I'm an actor. Where does this place? Where does he go? So I had to seriously get into a prayer, not from here [the mind], but from the heart.

SCOTT ROSS: The whipping and the scourging are hard to watch because that goes on for so long. I was literally counting the lashes. I watched people in the theatre in front of me, a small viewing theatre, turn their faces away because they couldn't continue to look.

JIM CAVIEZEL: You said something very critical there: People turn their eyes away when they see it, and what they're seeing is their own sin. It is not wanting to deal, at times, with their own sin. It's that hard to look at. But this film forces you to see yourself, not the way you want to see yourself, but as God sees you. There are no passive onlookers here.

SCOTT ROSS: What part of this had the greatest affect on you? Is it possible to isolate a moment or time?

JIM CAVIEZEL: Oh boy, I'll be honest with you, there are things that I went through that I can't even talk about. I felt like a great presence came within me at times when we were filming. This prayer that came from me was, 'I don't want people to see me. I just want them to see Jesus. And through that conversions will happen.' That's what I wanted more than anything, that people would have a visceral effect to finally make a decision whether to follow Him or not.

SCOTT ROSS: And that's the only choice; either you do or you don't. You're either for Me, or you're against Me.

JIM CAVIEZEL: Throughout this, when people put on Christ when they go outside, that is all nonbelievers see. And we're going to have people reject it, but there are others who make a living at being Christian. This is serious because they know the Body of Christ. They know what that is. And for them, it's even more serious. Many of our Jewish brothers are terrified. I have people come up to me and say, 'Jim,' -- they're Jewish -- 'some of the e-mails, have you read these things? This is frightening. I didn't kill Christ.' I say, 'No, the people standing before Christ and Pilate during the judgment scene do not condemn an entire race for the death of Christ anymore than the actions of Mussolini condemn all Italians, or the heinous crimes of Stalin condemn all Russians. We are all culpable in the death of Christ. My sins, your sins put Him on that cross.' I bring this up because it's very important to address. I want my Jewish brothers to see this film. I want people in my own faith who think it's anti-Semitic to see this film. I want non-religious people to see this film. This film does not play the blame game at all. We're all culpable in the death of Christ.

This is Part I of that interview. (Read Part II)

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