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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 13:35 GMT
Jim Caviezel's risky sacrifice
Jim Caveziel
Jim Caviezel portrays Jesus in The Passion of the Christ

Catholic actor Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ, was blessed by the Pope at the Vatican on Monday.

Caviezel was not a name that tripped off the tongue outside Hollywood until Mel Gibson cast him as the lead in his film about the final days of Christ's life.

The 35-year-old devout Catholic was offered the role after meeting Gibson and The Passion's producer Stephen McEveety in Malibu.

The film, which has already been released in many countries including the US and the Pope's native Poland, has been the subject of much debate over whether it sends out an anti-Semitic message.

But The Passion's content has also shocked many cinema-goers because of the relentless violence displayed as Caviezel portrays Christ's drawn-out suffering on the cross.


It is a far cry from Caviezel's first acting experience, in a stage adaptation of Frank Sinatra's musical Come Blow Your Horn in his home state of Washington.

The Passion of The Christ
The film has divided opinion
Caviezel was born and raised in Washington's Skagit County. His initial love was athletics, particularly basketball, and he only fell into acting after he injured his foot and had to give up the sport.

He moved to Los Angeles when he was 23 and worked as a waiter between auditions.

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 minor role as an airline reservations clerk in Gus Van Sant's 1991 film My Own Private Idaho.

He only won the part by pretending to be a recent Italian immigrant with a very strong accent to match.

Minor roles continued to trickle through in the 1990s, including Lawrence Kasdan's Wyatt Earp, starring Kevin Costner in 1994, and 1997's GI Jane, opposite Demi Moore.

Big break

Caviezel has director Terrence Malick to thank for his big break in the 1998 war movie, The Thin Red Line.

The Passion of the Christ
Caviezel (left) spent months preparing for the role

Caviezel played pacifist Private Witt opposite a stellar 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.

He has been hailed for his performance which involved being covered in fake blood for much of the film.

Caviezel had to learn Aramaic, the ancient language that Christ would have spoken, and often spent 10 hours in make-up.


The actor's time spent shooting the cross scenes was filmed in 10 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.

It is perhaps hard to imagine him playing anyone else after associating him with such a revered and well-known historical figure.

Caviezel's next film is a thriller, Omar Naim's Final Cut, opposite Robin Williams and Mira Sorvino.


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