SCOTT ROSS INTERVIEW
Miracles on the Set: Behind the Scenes of ‘The Passion’ with Jim Caviezel
By Shannon Woodland and Scott Ross
The 700 Club
CBN.com – The DVD of The Passion of The Christ releases Tuesday, August 31, and the media are abuzz once again about this epic drama.
The man who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of The Christ is no newcomer to the world of film production. 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 his role of Jesus may have jeopardized his respectability.
Many moviegoers have been stirred by The Passion of The Christ. But only a select few know what it took to make a film of such great significance. Obviously, Jim Caviezel was one of them. And it wore on him to the point where he was angry and yelling at God.
Caviezel went to great depths to help 700 Club producer Scott Ross understand what it meant to play the crucified Savior.
This is Part II of that interview. (Read part 1)
I got into Julliard and then I got this movie with Kevin Costner, it was about ’93 or ’94.
SCOTT ROSS: What was the movie?
JIM CAVIEZEL: Wyatt Earp. A small role, and I played the brother. And then I got a deferment from Julliard, which led me to a role where Mel Gibson saw me, which was The Thin Red Line.
At one point [during the filming of ‘The Passion’] I remember yelling out, “You obviously don’t care! Here we are breaking our backs for you.” At that point this cross is swaying from one direction to the next, and I’m on a thousand foot cliff. If that thing snaps, I’m toast. And Mel didn’t know what to do. We’re in the middle of a shot and all of a sudden the wind started. It’s like going to the Grand Canyon and sticking a cross at the edge of it. It’s all cemented in and you think you’re safe, but the winds blow, it’s teetering back and forth, and hypothermia is horrendous. I’m itching all over the place. I have this shoulder separation. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through one of those.
But I thought, “Well, we got it.” But the next day we watch the film, and it looked great, but Mel said, “We can’t use it.” And I said, “What do you mean we can’t use it?” You know, literally, yelling at him. He said, “If they’re focused on that cross, they’re not focused on Jesus, they’re looking at that thing going back and forth. Forget it, we’re doing it again.” And that went for another five weeks, just the crucifixion scenes alone.
SCOTT ROSS: Good grief.
JIM CAVIEZEL: Just for the crucifixion scenes.
SCOTT ROSS: In one part of the movie Isaiah the prophet is speaking. He said that Jesus was disfigured and he was beaten and bruised so much that he was hardly recognizable as a person.
JIM CAVIEZEL: We didn’t even go there. We didn’t even go to the full … What we read, you’re reading right there. And we wanted people to get a visceral reaction of he’s human, you can still see him. Because there is something about how it can be so repulsive and so much that you kind of shut off, and we didn’t want that. We wanted to take it to the point and keep people there.
SCOTT ROSS: It’s been rumored, I don’t know if this is true or not, but as you were filming you were hit with lightning? That’s true?
JIM CAVIEZEL: I was lit up like a Christmas tree! I was doing the Sermon on the Mount. I knew it was going to hit me about four seconds before it happened. I thought, “I’m going to get hit.” And when it happened, I saw the extras grab the ground. What they saw was fire coming out the right and left side of my head. Illumination around the whole body. And during the shot they said, “Do you have it on camera?” What happened was Mel had said, “Action” and the cameras were panning to me and here is where this light just flashed. And by the time the cameras got to me, I hear Mel screaming out, “What the heck happened to his hair?” I looked like I went to see Don King’s hair stylist.
JIM CAVIEZEL: Five minutes after I got hit, Jon Mikalini, an assistant, walks over and says are you okay? And then he got hit. The difference was that they saw the bolt come down and hit Jon; they didn’t see that when I was standing there. All I felt was this giant tremendous slap on my ears and a few seconds of a pink, red static infront of my eyes.
SCOTT ROSS: You had a literal miracle on the set. What do you attribute it to? You could have died.
JIM CAVIEZEL: Yeah. Or I could have been incinerated. Jon, who came up to me, had already been hit. I mean three lightning strikes on one film, one guy getting hit twice, and me obviously getting hit one time. And there were a lot of miracles other than that kind of a miracle.
SCOTT ROSS: On the set?
JIM CAVIEZEL: Well, one of the guys working on the film was a Muslim. He was one of the guards who beat me, and he converted. He had a real big experience there, you know. But what was going on is that we had so many prayers worldwide while we were going through it, I really believe this is important because when things started happening they were praying for us. All the actors that worked on this film, some aren’t going to accept it, but the opportunity will always be there for them. Here’s the other thing, it will stay with them the rest of their lives. People will always come up to them, people will always ask them about the movie they were in, it will always be with them.
SCOTT ROSS: What do you think it’s going to do to your career? And if it did blow it out of the water?
JIM CAVIEZEL: Right. This is what I feel. I believe I was called to play this role. When I look out to all my fellow Americans and people in the world, I say to them I want you to do this in the public and shamelessly express your faith in public. That’s what I’ve done here, and I can rest as it is. I don’t know where it’s going, but if it doesn’t turn out where I’m continually working, I’m still an actor. I’ll always be one, whether I get another job or not. I fulfilled my mission right now. I felt what I was right now. That was my opportunity, and I would have done it again.