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Jim Caviezel Reveals His Deepest Hope for 'The Passion of The Christ'

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Jim Caviezel, the talented actor who portrays Christ in the movie, The Passion of The Christ, which focuses on the last 12 hours of Jesus' life, has revealed his deepest hope for the film.

"My prayer is that I don't want people to see me in the film; I only want them to see Christ," he told a group of journalists in Beverly Hills recently.

Caviezel, who has soulful blue eyes, and a dark, almost eerie kind of good looks, was born in Mount Vernon on September 26, 1968. One of five children, he grew up as part of a devout Catholic family and has starred in many films and in 1998 Caviezel had his breakthrough role in The Thin Red Line. The film received a number of Oscar nominations, and its stellar ensemble cast, which included Ben Chaplin, Sean Penn, George Clooney, and Nick Nolte, earned almost unanimous acclaim.

He has starred in many movies since then including his portrayal of a football coach's embittered son in Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday. In 2000, Caviezel starred in the supernatural thriller Frequency, playing the son of a long-dead man (Any Given Sunday co-star Dennis Quaid) with whom he is able to communicate over ham radio and he took the lead in the period adventure The Count of Monte Cristo (2002).

But he has never worked on a movie like his latest with him as Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004) in which he was struck by lightning during the filming and endured his shoulder being separated during the crucifixion sequence.

Caviezel revealed what it was like during the making of the film that was shot in southern Italy and in Rome.

"I would start with the makeup at 2:00 a.m. and at 10:00 a.m. we were ready for me to start the cross," he said.

He said that during the actual crucifixion filming, things got really difficult for him. "I separated my shoulder and then my eye began to cause me to hyper focus," he said. "I also had to learn to breathe while on the cross. I would then have to get up early in the morning and go through the whole cycle again and then you have to take off the make up and it takes about two hours to take off and you sit the in the shower for about 25 minutes and then you start to sweat. I would have to drink water because I was dehydrated and then hypothermia would start to kick up during the day. Besides my problem with my shoulder, the wind would come up and it was like the Grand Canyon and the wind would go right through you.

"My shoulder would experience terrific pain because of the wind hitting the cross and it kept pulling the shoulder out of joint and making me go insane. This was going on over and over again, plus I was getting only three to four and a half hours of sleep. When you go to sleep at night and you have hypothermia, I don't care how many sweats you put on, you shake through the night. So I would wake up and be shaking and then I would go to work and the skin was starting to become raw. When they were putting on the make up, I would shout, 'Ouch, please don't touch me here. You are hurting my shoulder.'

"That went on for five weeks just for the crucifixion. We would start on Monday and go through to Saturday night. On Sunday, I would go to church and then on Monday I would start the cycle over again.

"At the same time, I had to lift weights for my quadriceps to be able to take the weight of the cross. They would put me on for about 12 minutes at a time and so all my weight was going into my right leg."

Struck by Lightning

"Then I got struck by lightning," Caviezel said. "I was on Golgotha when it happened. It almost makes you want to quit. I can tell you that Jesus wasn't smiling on the cross. It really hurts, but as an actor, I didn't go through anything that He went through. I was reading a book and read that he suffered over 5,000 blows to His body and that really meant something.

"During the scourging scene, I got hit. When they came in with these whips, they were supposed to hit a metal board behind me, but one of them hit me square in the back. You know what happened? I went 'ouch' and I couldn't breathe. It was an automatic response. When the guy hit me, I said something I shouldn't have. I added, 'I know I am playing Jesus, but I feel like Satan right now.' Mistakes happen, but it's not pleasant."

He also talked about the horror of crucifixion.

"When you are on the cross, you die by asphyxiation," he said. "You can't breathe. When I was up there, my legs were going numb and then my forceps would go numb. I couldn't get my diaphragm activated to get the air into my chest. They would bring me food and I would turn around and wretch right there on the cross. It's amazing. You would see people laughing. People love watching people suffer. It's amazing. There were others who couldn't stop watching because they were in love with Christ -- yet I'm not Him!"

He revealed how strange it was for him during the filming.

"People came up to me and called me Jesus, but I never felt adequate that I was Him. The first thing I said to Mel was, 'If we don't carry our cross, we are going to be crushed under the weight of it.' He was under attack. The same time that he was directing, he was fighting wars all over the place. I don't know how he finished this thing. It was a miracle. God gave us just barely enough to get through.

"I knew what I was in for when I took this film, but I had no idea it would go in the direction it did. The only thing that scared me were the three languages, as I barely knew Latin, but knew nothing about Aramaic, and old Hebrew was foreign to learn."

When asked how it had changed him playing Jesus, he replied, "I now know Him in a more personal way than I have. I am proud of this film because it is the truth. 'It is as it was' even though some have tried to discredit that line."

He then talked about meeting Billy Graham. "I got to be with him for three hours and he is a wonderful man," he said. "I remember watching him on TV one night and I wanted to be one of those people that walked out. When we met, I told him, 'I believe you carry the Holy Spirit with you; I believe you are a holy man.'

"This film is under such controversy. I told someone who said that he had heard it was a very controversial film, and I said, 'Have you seen any other passion play that wasn't? Where they killed a good man?' Jesus didn't die for some mythological story, he didn't die for fantasy.

"I don't think I could have done this film without the faith that I have. During the day, when you work with an academy-award-winning director like Mel Gibson, why wouldn't you do a film that is based on the Gospels, but I tell you, it scared just about everyone away. It scared financiers. It is controversial. Jesus said, "I did not come to bring peace to the world, but I came with a sword."

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About The Author


Dan Wooding's career must rate as one of the most unusual in journalism and broadcasting. For he has gone from being a correspondent for the National Enquirer and a staffer on two of Britain's raciest tabloids – the Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror – as well as an interviewer for BBC Radio 1, to an undercover reporter and campaigner for persecuted Christians in the restricted countries of the world. Wooding is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) based in Lake Forest, California, and is the president and chief editor of the ASSIST News