Jim Caviezel, centre, prepared to play Luke through and receiving the Eucharist. Photo courtesy of CTMG

Prayer, Eucharist prepares Jim Caviezel for latest biblical role

By 
  • March 24, 2018

Since he shot to fame 14 years ago after playing Jesus in Mel Gibson’s religious blockbuster The Passion of Christ, Jim Caviezel has turned down several biblical roles. 

But the devout Catholic was drawn immediately to the role of Luke the Evangelist when he read the script for the new biblical epic Paul, Apostle of Christ.

Caviezel said the stories of Paul and Luke are incredibly inspiring. 

“I learned from both of these guys that I might be brilliant, I might have all these things but what good am I without God? Nothing,” he said. 

“And it’s relevant in this time now, especially in a time in the world where people are attached to their things, and we still die and have to answer to God.”

Paul, Apostle of Christ examines the life and death of one of the most important figures of the early Church. The film, which opens on March 23, is set in 67 AD when Christians are being forced into hiding as Roman soldiers systematically hunted and executed anyone who proclaims Christ as the Messiah. 

Paul is imprisoned and sentenced to death by Roman emperor Nero. Luke, played by Caviezel, is called upon to visit Paul and create a record of his Christian experience that would become the Acts of the Apostles. 

Every time Luke enters Rome to visit Paul in his cell, he risks his life. The Christian communities are losing hope, so Luke accepts the mission to preserve Paul’s message of God’s love. Throughout the film, Luke huddles in a corner of the cell as Paul dictates his message to the Christian communities. 

In preparing for the role, Caviezel said he turned to prayer and the sacraments. 

“I do what I’ve done since I was a young man,” he said.

“I go to Mass on a daily basis. I receive the Eucharist. Part of it is God working in my heart and my head and bringing all that together ... and I think that is the essence, so that when the audience is watching it, it becomes seamless.”

During filming in Malta last year, the archbishop of Malta loaned Caviezel a relic of St. Paul which he carried with him during the three months of filming.

Paul is played by James Faulkner, a British actor who said he was raised an Anglican and been familiar with the story of St. Paul since he was about four years old. 

When someone is made a saint and credited with more than half the New Testament, it is easy to put St. Paul on a pedestal, Faulkner said. He wanted to recognize the power and influence of Paul, while letting the audience see him as a man. 

“What’s holding him together at this point, sinews of faith and not much else,” said Faulkner. “I think what was really interesting to me was really the script didn’t suggest any sadness.”


He said one of the most challenging aspects of the role was to speak Paul’s most quoted lines and make them personal. He wanted to keep his preparation simple and direct. He studied the script and read all of Paul’s Epistles. 

“I found that quite a difficult balance because you had to imagine him writing in the cell and I didn’t want to put too much emotion to it... that it didn’t become operatic,” said Faulkner. “Just to make it his own internal argument and him reaching out to the people he wanted to touch.”

Although Caviezel is best known for playing Jesus in The Passion of Christ, he said he was drawn to play Luke as much by the strength of the script as the Christian theme. 

“You don’t go by genre, you go by the script,” Caviezel, 49, told Catholic News Service. 

He added that  Faulkner can expect to have people in the street start calling him Paul, “just as they called me Jesus in the street after The Passion.”

As for playing another biblical role, Caviezel told CNS he isn’t worried about being typecast. 

“If you’re Will Farrell, do you say, ‘It’s a comedy, I can’t do that anymore’? Let’s see here, if you’re (Arnold) Schwarzenegger, ‘It’s an action film, I can’t do that anymore,’ ” Caviezel said. 

In fact, Caviezel has said his next big project will be to reprise his role as Jesus in an upcoming sequel to The Passion titled The Resurrection, which is still in planning for possible release in late 2019.

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