Jim Caviezel on being Catholic in Hollywood

Jim Caviezel is an actor who has starred in The Thin Red Line, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Passion of the Christ, and the television show Person of Interest. He is also an actor who is known for speaking freely about his Catholic faith.

Jim Caviezel is now playing the role of St. Luke in the new film Paul, Apostle of Christ, in theaters March 23rd. He stopped by The Drew Mariani Show™ recently to discuss his new film and share his own testimony of being a Catholic actor in Hollywood.

Why he took on this film…

I look at the material as a whole, first of all. Then it became personal to me, because the saints in heaven are like my brothers and sisters. St. Paul is like my uncle. They were personal to me. And our Lord goes with me everywhere in my heart.

But just like anything, sometimes I would read the material and think it’s not so good. It was like, ‘Hey Jim, you did Jesus, now in the next movie play Peter. Or play Jesus again in this.’ And I would read it and think it’s just not very good. And that’s what happens. If you’re Will Ferrell in Elf and you hit a home run, they want you to make an Elf 2. If you’re a dramatic actor, it’s the same thing. If you play Jesus that’s all you play.

I went for quite a while just continually looking for good material. There were other religious roles that came up. But when this script came, the first thing that hit me after reading it was that I have to do it, and the theme that came through was that love is a greater motivator than fear.

How Jim Caviezel prepared to play the roles of Jesus and St. Luke…

Jim Caviezel as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ
Jim Caviezel as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ

In The Passion of the Christ … what was required of me was to be on a cross in the freezing cold. Initially I said, ‘Jesus, it’s so hard to play You.’ Day in and day out doing that and getting back up on that cross, I was hypothermic. And at some point up there, I said, ‘I don’t want them to see me, I want them to see You.’

And the potential of what that had in the movie, and what eventually happened when the world saw, was that we got to have an account of Jesus there. How did that happen? I went to Mass, I received the Eucharist, I went to Confession, I prayed the Rosary, and I was heavily involved in Scripture. And that opportunity came up again in Paul,  Apostle of Christ.

What he wants the world to see in this film…

In modern-day Christianity, a lot of people think that Jesus paid that debt for me, Jesus died that death, and now I don’t have to do that. That’s not true. Certainly Our Lord loved Peter, Andrew, and Luke – and all those guys were martyred.  Those guys knew that they were giving their lives for a God who had already done so for them.

And in a moment’s notice, we may have to risk our reputation, our name’s sake, or even our very lives to stand for the truth. And if you don’t believe that, go talk to the Chaldeans, the Syrian Christians who have been butchered for the last 10 years in the Middle East. We’ve closed our ears to that.

I never thought that being a Christian would be an easy road, but that my heart, even on a cross in the freezing cold, nothing could stop my burning heart from loving Jesus. It’s important. And I took it as an actor because I want people to see why I am proud to be a Christian.

What he hopes audiences take away from the film…

When we were doing Paul the Apostle, James Faulkner is playing Paul in it, and he has this incredibly beautiful voice. It’s like a Nat King Cole, velvety sound. It’s what I, in my mind, picture Paul would sound like. And he proclaims the Gospel, the word of Jesus Christ, to the head of the Romans, the head of the world. Basically telling him, ‘No, I will not turn my back on our Lord.’  There are only a few who would do that, even in this time as well.

The Bible is the living Word of God. Some of us get to play Jesus, like me, some get to play Paul, like James Faulkner. But some of us choose to play Judas, Pilate, Herod. Who are we playing in this short life of ours? I’ve been blessed to suffer for our Lord. Because I know He loves us, but not enough of us love Him.

What he learned from Paul, Apostle of Christ

Saul’s name, by definition, means Great One. Paul’s name, by definition, means Little One.  What I learned from this film is that one simple change of a letter. In order for us to be great in the eyes of God, we have to become very small. I find it is incredible that if we look at our lives, just one little change in our lives, in our name, in who we are – what kind of world would this be?

I learned that these individuals, these saints, were just like us. They were ordinary sinners like us. But they chose to change a little and they let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Without these few martyrs, Christianity would not have existed. We are part of this whole plan.

This film is going to be so powerful for families, and for that one rag-tag guy who walks in there and thinks, ‘Wow, God is speaking to me right now. I can make a difference. I can do it.’

Why everyone should go to see Paul, Apostle of Christ

I know this film is going to be phenomenal. I know if you loved The Passion of the Christ you’re going to love this film. You’re going to be so proud. In one of the scenes, Paul is speaking and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the head of the Romans. And I said, ‘That’s it. That’s who we are.’  That’s what He’s wanting us to go out and tell the world. Be proud to be a Christian. Be proud to be Catholic. Be proud to be evangelical.

Listen to the full interview with Jim Caviezel below:

The Drew Mariani Show™ airs weekdays from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. Eastern/12:00 – 3:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.