David Couchman
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The Passion of the Christ

Jim Caviezel in 'The Passion of the Christ': 'I pray they will see Jesus'

Dan Wooding talks to Jim Caviezel, the US actor with the unenviable role of Jesus in 'The Passion of the Christ' (18)

Jim Caviezel, the talented actor who portrays Jesus in 'The Passion of the Christ' (18), 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 (33), who has soulful blue eyes and a dark, brooding good looks, was born in Mount Vernon, USA. One of five children, he grew up as part of a devout Catholic family and has starred in many films from his breakthrough role in 'The Thin red Line' in 1998, to the lead in the period adventure 'The Count of Monte Cristo' (2002).

But he has never worked on a movie like his latest as Jesus Christ himself in Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ' in which he was struck by lightning during the filming and endured his shoulder being dislocated 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 2am and at 10 am we were ready for me to start the cross.

He said that during the actual crucifixion filming, things got really difficult for him.

I dislocated 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. It takes about two hours to take off the make-up and you sit 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. Beside 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 five five weeks just for the crucifixion.

Then I got struck by lightning. 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 had 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 when you're the mistake it's not pleasant.

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 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.

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.

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.

This article was first published in Christian Herald - the UK's only interdenominational weekly newspaper. Subscribe securely online for just £3 a month by direct debit at www.christianherald.org.uk - or call the subscription hotline on 01903 602136

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More Web sites

'Passion prompts murder confession' - this, and a wide range of other Passion-related stories from the BBC

Free promotional materials for the film

Tell a friend by email (or text message) about the availability of movie clips of the film at:

See the Passion

See the Passion.com - 'See the Passion with your own eyes; feel it in your heart for ever.' - An independent website supporting the movie.

A News Anchor's Perspective: "Nothing in my existence... could have prepared me for what I saw on-screen last night" - Review by Jody Dean, Dallas-Ft. Worth anchor for CBS.

"...the most gut-wrenching, emotional and life-changing two hours of my life." - Review by J R Whitby, director of Gospelcom.net

Will Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ help save Christianity? Article by Daniel Johnson in the 11th February 2004 issue of the London Daily Telegraph

'Who would want to see a film this violent?' The first UK review of the film, by John Hiscock in the London Daily Telegraph

The Passion of the Christ

Leadership University feature article on 'The Passion' - also contains a wide range of links to additional articles.