Director Mel Gibson says a renewed interest in faith inspired his controversial film about Christ.
Gibson says film is about "obsessional love"
Gibson told Readers' Digest magazine: "I think the germ of it came at a time when I was really searching, asking all those Hamlet questions."
The Passion of the Christ, released in the US this month, has been attacked by Jewish and Christian groups, who fear the film is anti-Semitic.
Gibson said was he shocked by criticism of the film, which he also wrote.
The actor and director said the film had been "incubating for 12 years".
He said he had researched the film thoroughly.
"Part of my investigation was the reawakening of the faith I was raised in.
"So I began to explore in books, sermons and theologies. It's interesting that many of the critics think I just came out of a vacuum with this.
"I have talked to literally thousands of learned and biblical scholars. I didn't make it up, you know."
Gibson said the film was about "obsessional love" and was based on text of the gospel.
But some critics have complained the film is anti-Jewish because it suggests Jews were responsible for Christ's death.
In the US, the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee
have launched a campaign against the film, saying it is anti-Semitic.
The film has dialogue in Latin and Aramaic
"I expected some level of turbulence because whenever one delves into religion and politics - people's deeply held beliefs - you're going to stir things up.
"But it was a surprise, to have shots being fired while I was still filming, and then to have various loud voices in the press - people who hadn't seen it - slinging mud."
He added: "They don't really have a problem with me if they have a problem with this film. They have a problem with the gospel, because it adheres pretty well to the gospel."
Despite denials from the Vatican, Gibson said the Pope had seen the film and given his approval.
"Yes, Pope John Paul II saw it.
"His assistant related a comment that he made during the latter part of the film.
He said, 'It is as it was'. It sounds pretty Zen, doesn't it?"
The Passion of the Christ is released in the UK on 26 March.