Christian Living


Game of Thrones Star: Playing Apostle Paul Has 'Changed Me'

Jim Caviezel and James Faulkner in Paul Apostle of Christ movie
Movie Info


PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing images




March 23, 2018


James Faulkner, Jim Caviezel, Joanne Whalley, John Lynch, Olivier Martinez


Andrew Hyatt

More on this movie at IMDb.com

James Faulkner's acting roles, of recent, lean toward villainy. Think Game of Thrones.

His new role, by comparison, is quite the departure for the 69-year-old, London-born actor. In fact, Faulkner's been glad of it, saying that this experience of playing Apostle Paul has "transformed" him.

In Paul, Apostle of Christ, Faulkner embodies the aging New Testament man of God as he awaits execution during a great time of persecution of Christians in Rome. The Affirm Films picture chronicles Paul's last days, when Luke (Jim Caviezel, The Passion of the Christ) sneaks into prison to take care for his frail friend and to write his redemption story (the beginnings of the Book of Acts).

What fans of Faulkner's may not know is that this particular role is a return to his roots. Faulkner grew up singing biblical hymns, something he enjoyed very much. At the Royal College of Church Music, young James was trained as a chorister and was often a soloist (as a boy soprano, not a treble -- he was eager to point that out).

Recently, Faulkner spoke with me on the phone from London about playing the biblical hero, what this project has meant to him personally, and how Caviezel was a faithful asset on set. Here are excerpts from my lovely conversation with Faulkner:

Hannah Goodwyn: Has your understanding of Apostle Paul changed or perhaps even intensified as you've taken on this acting role?

James Faulkner: Yes.

Goodwyn: In what ways?

Faulkner: Well, I think it was an important moment for me to play someone like Paul. Most my career as an actor, or latterly my career as an actor, you know, because I've been doing this a long time… You've seen me playing the villain in television and film so often...

It was really interesting to play a man who has remarkable humility, who was a very clever proselytizer, who was, I wouldn't say manipulative, but who did have the ability to convert people to the Christian faith, to second guess those who he felt would lead a better life through the acceptance of Jesus Christ. And he has that marvelous speech about love and the true nature of love, and the true value of love, and that one must always show love to those who persecute you. And as a persecutor himself, he perhaps understood it more than most and had traveled further than most.

Goodwyn: People of faith, especially, know Paul's story and the incredible arc his life goes through. From the clips I've seen, it looks like there could be many memorable scenes in the film.

Faulkner: I hope so.

Goodwyn: Was there a moment as you filmed Paul, Apostle of Christ that touched you personally, or a line of dialogue that has just stuck with you?

Faulkner: There were several moments, Hannah. There were several moments. I remember one in particular where I had to conjure the ghosts of those that Saul had persecuted and that Saul had killed. In the last 10 days or so, where we join Paul for those last few days of his life, when Luke bribes his way into the Mamertine Prison determined to take—well, not only to visit Paul, to bring him succor but to take down his story, and that story, as you know, becomes the Acts of the Apostles, and a degree of comfort, then, into Paul's life, because he's not alone at the end, having felt terribly alone and having felt forgotten… He was no longer able to carry this message of hope and redemption to a very secular world of the Roman Empire.

He's there in the dark on his own and is haunted by those that he persecuted as Saul. And there was one moment when I felt…I was rehearsing, OK, it was professional... I conjured the devil into a corner of that cell. Suddenly, I terrified the crew by yelling out, "Be gone!" Then, I asked them to turn over [roll camera], and you see a man who is truly haunted by the souls of those that he's persecuted. I won't ruin the film for you, and there will be no spoilers… But he, shall we say, gets to meet them at the end; and I found it to be incredibly moving. And yes, it's changed me. Yes, it has changed me.

Goodwyn: Apostle Paul is a biblical icon, but he was also just a man. What kind of humanity are we going to see in him in this film?

Faulkner: Well, that will be for you to determine. I simply delivered the script, the beautiful script written by Andrew Hyatt. And I didn't really have to interpret it. The words of Paul come through me. I am just a vessel through whom the script passes. It will be for you as the audience to determine whether or not I am faithful to who we believe Paul to be. I hope I've done it justice, Hannah, and done him justice. I am reminded, of course, that in London our largest cathedral is St. Paul's. So, it's not a responsibility that I undertook lightly.

Goodwyn: What sort of conversations did you have with your costar, Jim Caviezel?  

Faulkner: Jim Caviezel is a much more committed Christian than I am; and I had to learn a degree of humility from Jim, which actually was very easy to do. I was always struck by his constancy, and his understanding and how important that he believed the film to be. He took me along with him, and I thank him for it.

Goodwyn: For many people, Paul's life personifies some of the foundational cornerstones of what our faith really means.

Faulkner: Yes.

Goodwyn: As you were portraying Paul, what sort of themes were strong for you in his story?

Faulkner: I was entirely transported by his life; and I transformed as an individual, of that I'm certain. I was transformed by it. I'm not going to say that I'm a better man for playing it because I don't know that I am, and I don't know that I will be able to maintain it. But yes, I know what betterness is and I'm reminded of it very strongly by playing Paul. And I hope that I live a better life subsequent of playing him.

Paul, Apostle of Christ opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, March 23, 2018, and is rated PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing images.

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