Passion actor meets Pope

(First posted on ICN 17 March 2004) The actor who plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ had an audience with the Pope on Monday, the Vatican confirmed yesterday.

Jim Caviezel, 35, had a brief meeting with Pope John Paul II who then blessed the actor. A devout Catholic, Caviezel's wife and in-laws were also present at the Vatican meeting.

The Pope was given an early private screening of the film, but Vatican officials denied reports that he personally endorsed it.

Caviezel was offered the role after meeting Gibson and The Passion's producer Stephen McEveety in Malibu.

Born and raised in Washington's Skagit County, Caviezel was keen on sports as a young man, particularly basketball. He went into acting after he injured his foot and had to give up the sport.

Caviezel moved to Washington at the age of 23. After a few months of struggling to find acting jobs, he began to pick up small parts in TV including The Wonder Years and Murder, She Wrote.

His first break came with a small role as an airline reservations clerk in Gus Van Sant's 1991 film My Own Private Idaho.

Throughout the 1990s, he had a number of small parts in movies including Lawrence Kasdan's Wyatt Earp, starring Kevin Costner in 1994, and 1997's GI Jane, opposite Demi Moore.

Caviezel's big break came in 1998 when director Terrence Malick cast him in the 1998 war movie, The Thin Red Line. Caviezel played pacifist Private Witt opposite a cast including Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and Adrien Brody.

Roles in time thriller film Frequency in 2000 and Angel Eyes with Jennifer Lopez in 2001 followed but he is probably best known for his part as the wrongly convicted Edmond Dante's in the 2002 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic, The Count of Monte Cristo.

But none of Caviezel's previous roles could have prepared him for the gruelling challenge of playing Jesus Christ.

Caviezel had to learn Aramaic, the ancient language that Christ would have spoken, and often spent ten hours in make-up.

The actor's time spent shooting the cross scenes was filmed in ten minute intervals but took days to complete, often in freezing temperatures on location in Italy.

Caviezel's shoulder was dislocated during one scene and he was also struck by lightning on another occasion.

The Passion of the Christ is released in the UK on 26 March.

Source: VIS/Icon Films

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