Jim Caviezel claims he has been “rejected in my own industry” after playing Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004) – worshiped by many as the closest a Hollywood blockbuster will ever get to the Second Coming, reviled by others as a sadistic, fetishistic work tainted with anti-Semitism.
Caviezel came up with that remark while speaking at the First Baptist Church of Orlando, Florida, on April 30, 2011. In the words of the Orlando Sentinel‘s Roger Moore, the Passion of the Christ star was in town “to give witness to his faith, to urge others to share it and to sell a new all-star audio production of the Bible that he has produced.”
At the church, Caviezel recalled that Mel Gibson had warned him before they began filming of The Passion: “You’ll never work in this town again.”
The Jesus-to-be responded: “We all have to embrace our crosses.” Caviezel later added, “We have to give up our names, our reputations, our lives to speak the truth.”
What “truth” exactly Caviezel was referring to remains unclear. But it bears remembering that long before Caviezel’s Jesus there were many others whose portrayers went on with their acting careers unscathed. In other words, anyone who claims that Caviezel’s acting career stalled because of anti-Christian bigotry in (Jewish-dominated? Satan-worshiping?) Hollywood are either ignorant or dishonest.
Below are four notable Made in Hollywood Jesuses:
- H.B. Warner in Cecil B. DeMille’s The King of Kings (1927). Ten years after playing Jesus, stage and screen veteran Warner received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Lost Horizon.
- A handsome, second-rank leading man in the 1950s, Jeffrey Hunter followed Nicholas Ray’s The King of Kings (1961) with mostly minor movies. That was likely less a Jesus Curse than the fact that Hunter, known for youthful roles, was by then pushing 40.
- Max von Sydow, possibly the most believable Jesus out there, managed to survive George Stevens’ box office disaster The Greatest Story Ever Told (1964). Perhaps because the following year he was cast opposite Julie Andrews in Hawaii. Anyhow, von Sydow’s association with Ingmar Bergman and a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Pelle the Conqueror (1988) surely didn’t hurt his career, either, which continues to flourish to this day.
- And finally, there’s Willem Dafoe, who has gone from Jesus Christ to Antichrist, despite (or perhaps because of?) the wrath of righteous Christians following the release of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. Along the way, Dafoe even got to vamp it up as Max Schreck and get a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for his efforts.
James Caviezel The Passion of the Christ photo: Newmarket Films
James Caviezel, Frequency
Below is the domestic box office take of James Caviezel’s films, whether in leads or supporting roles, released from 2004 to the present (via Box Office Mojo). Could that be one important reason producers have shied away from him?
- Highway Men (2004), $371k
- The Passion of the Christ (2004), $370.78m
- Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (2004), $2.69m
- The Final Cut (2004), $551k
- I Am David (2004), $288k
- Madison (2005), $517k
- Unknown (2006), $26k
- Deja Vu (2006), starring Denzel Washington, $64.03m
- Outland (2009), $166k
- The Stoning of Soraya M. (2009), $637k
Caviezel’s pre-2004 films – including supporting roles – generally performed much better perhaps because he was usually partnered with bigger names, including Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Dennis Quaid. Even so, none of his movies could be called a blockbuster. Titles from 1998 to 2002 are listed below:
- High Crimes (2002), $41.54m
- The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), $54.23m
- Angel Eyes (2001), $24.17m
- Pay It Forward (2000), $33.51m
- Frequency (2000), $45.01m
- Ride with the Devil (1999), $635k
- The Thin Red Line (1998), $36.4m
Note: figures not adjusted for inflation.
Jim Caviezel Frequency image: New Line.
You’re examples of Made In Hollywood Jesus films that suffered no backlash are pointless, e.g. films pre-1990 before the current Hollywood Christian freak out kicked in, or recent films hostile to Christian orthodoxy. These have always had the blessings of Hollywood’s Vatican.
I don’t think the claim was that anyone who played Jesus got a backlash; the claim was that this particular portrayal was going to, and did, cause him problems getting another role.
There’s a difference between playing in a hollywood-safe version of the story and this one that was wildly successful and completely told from the standpoint of a believer.