Jim Caviezel on Why His Latest Film Is as Powerful as ‘Passion of the Christ’

LifeZette spoke with the acclaimed actor about 'Paul, Apostle of Christ' — and how the faith genre has changed since Mel Gibson's classic

“It’s really easy to love people who think like you think. It is a very arduous task to treat someone who has polar opposite views with the same dignity and respect with which you would treat a friend,” actor Jim Caviezel told LifeZette in an exclusive interview by phone about his latest picture, “Paul, Apostle of Christ.”

Caviezel’s words were in reference to what he calls his new film’s “core message.” It is the rare movie from modern Hollywood that promotes love and forgiveness.

Paul (played by James Faulkner) is a man who goes from being an infamous persecutor of Christians to one of the greatest promoters of the faith. He becomes an influential apostle for Jesus Christ. The redemptive story has now finally been given the big screen treatment in “Paul, Apostle of Christ” — set for release on March 23.

It was not a film that Caviezel — who plays Luke in the movie — was always interested in doing. When producer David Zelan, who had previously done “When the Game Stands Tall,” starring Caviezel, approached the actor, he turned down the offer.

Caviezel didn’t read the script the first time around, but he felt the material was too familiar, considering his past success with “The Passion of the Christ.”

Eventually, Zelan reapproached Caviezel and convinced him to actually read the script. The actor did — then told himself he had to do the movie.

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“It was great,” he said of Andrew Hyatt’s script. Hyatt also directed the film.

“Like ‘The Passion,’ it’s incredibly powerful,” said Caviezel of the finished film. “Your heart will feel great joy and you will cry.”

“Every tree that is going to grow has to be pruned, and you’ll be pruned in this film,” said Caviezel, laughing, “but for great purpose, great glory.”

What also appealed to Caviezel about “Paul, Apostle of Christ” was that it stuck to Scripture, unlike other Hollywood-produced faith movies in recent years — controversial efforts like “Noah” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

Those films were attempts at “Passion”-level hits, but they made drastic changes to their stories and did not find much support from audiences who desire faith-based content.

“It [the movie] still has to be executed to the power and the word of God, which is in the Scripture,” said Caviezel. “You can’t sit there and say, you know, ‘We’re gonna take Noah and make him a murderer or turn the burning bush into a little boy.’ You can’t do that.”

It’s a lesson the actor thinks Hollywood is slowly but surely learning.

Related: What ‘The Passion of the Christ’ Proved Then and Proves Now

Caviezel, who is in his late 40s and is a native of Mount Vernon, Washington, himself looks for films that move him and inspire him as classic cinema does, whether they’re faith-based or not.

His bar is set fairly high. He revealed he watches “It’s a Wonderful Life” every year, and it leaves him with a hopeful feeling he aims for with each of his projects.

“I’m just grateful I’ve been able to put films out like ‘Paul, Apostle of Christ,'” said Caviezel. “Essentially, this was the guy that represented Him [Jesus Christ] when Our Lord was crucified, and basically Paul had to step up and say, ‘OK, I have to be Christ now,’ and that goes for all of us.”

Check back tomorrow to see what Caviezel had to say about the upcoming “Passion” sequel he is working on with Mel Gibson.

“Paul, Apostle of Christ” hits theaters March 23.

PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter

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