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'A Transformative Experience': Why 'Paul, Apostle of Christ' Was a Life-Changer Before It Even Hit Theaters

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DALLAS, Texas – Outside of Jesus, Paul is arguably one of the most important figures of the New Testament, and his story hits the big screen today just as believers prepare to celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter.

Set during a time of Christian persecution in Rome, "Paul, Apostle of Christ" focuses on his final days in prison.

CBN News' Studio 5 had a chance to sit down with the film's director and its stars, including Jim Caviezel, who plays Luke, and James Faulkner, who plays Paul.  

"Extraordinary. That whole story is extraordinary," Faulkner says, referring to Paul's transformation from persecutor to persecuted.

"In a sense, I am prepared to play Paul because I have played so many villains," Faulkner says.

"There is still some love in me and this may reawaken it. And it did," the actor continues. "For me, it was a transformative experience to play Paul."

"You cannot say those words without believing them. You cannot say those words without it changing you," Faulkner says.

For example, Paul states in the film, "You cannot repay evil for evil. Evil can only be overcome with good."

Jim Caviezel plays the role of Luke, the great physician who risks his life to visit Paul in prison.

More than a decade ago, he delivered an unforgettable performance in "The Passion of the Christ." But he has not done a Biblical film or many other big screen performances since portraying Christ.

Caviezel told CBN News agreeing to portray Luke in this new film was about "finding the right story."

"What I am looking for is common sense," Caviezel says. "And there was a common sense to this. It wasn't a film that just beat you over the head. I realize that this movie can for someone who doesn't know who God is, I mean anything about Him, it would have a massive effect on."

Andrew Hyatt wrote and directed the film. But Hyatt's fascination with the Biblical figure began years before he sat down to write the screenplay.

Hyatt says Paul's story is his story.

In a red carpet interview with CBN News, Hyatt shared, "I walked away from the church for about seven years. And then I had a major re-conversion back, very much in the vein of Saint Paul, a Damascus Road type experience."

Paul's story touched many on the set of the film, including Jim Caviezel.

Recalling the nearly month-long shoot, Caviezel said, "I just happened to go through a personal experience that was so rough this last year. My wife lost her brother."

"We were on the precipice of losing one of our best friends," Caviezel continued.

"He was a mentor to me. Every morning we would get up and go swimming and down to the ocean."

That friend had helped Caviezel to get through the tough time he faced professionally, following the 2004 release of "The Passion of the Christ."

Recalling that time, Caviezel said, "Stories like doing 'The Passion' and then not being able to get the jobs that you used to get. I mean here is a film that is that successful and you are treated like a bum on the street in your own industry, you know. And he always was the right kind of person to me because he always got me focused on not being a victim."

"When he died this last year, it was a cross and it hurt. But I was able to expiate my pain, playing this guy. And I was able to see what the story could be. It's really a mentor relationship."   

Caviezel says this latest role is preparing him for the follow up to "The Passion of the Christ."

"That's part of the plan, that's part of the way," Caviezel says.

"And it doesn't mean we are not going to have any crosses along the way. 'The Passion of the Christ' had a cross that was that close to taking my own life. A lightening strike, open heart surgery. It was traumatic. Loss of your Hollywood friends. But would I change that direction? No, it was the greatest thing ever."

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About The Author

Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist who came to CBN News from the ABC-owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio. His most recent honor came as co-anchor of the newscast that earned the station’s morning news program its first Emmy Award. Efrem was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, but his formal television and journalism career was born across the Hudson River in New York City. He began as an NBC Page and quickly landed opportunities to work behind-the-scenes in local news, network news, entertainment, and the network’s Corporate Communications Department. His work earned him the NBC