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The Untold Truth Of Jim Caviezel

For as long as Jim Caviezel is an actor, he will likely be known first and foremost as the man who had the courage to portray Jesus Christ in an unflinching and R-rated take on the religious figure's tormented final days. But he was already an established movie star before that, and went on to lead several other projects in the following years — proving that his career is a lot more than just leading "The Passion of the Christ."

Caviezel has been an interesting figure both on screen and off, and has never been afraid to speak his mind or stand up for his beliefs — even when it has cost him professionally to do so. Post-"The Passion of the Christ," his roles have definitely skewed a bit more heavily toward religious fare, but Caviezel has also largely managed to maintain a certain level of mainstream relevance. The recent headlines about him and the responses to his 2023 film, "Sound of Freedom," have been divisive, to say the least. However, Caviezel remains undaunted in his insistence on openly discussing his faith and his politics, and he doesn't shy away from the controversies that doing so has often brought.

Jim Caviezel initially pursued a career in sports

Asked in an interview with IGN about when he first caught the acting bug, Jim Caviezel revealed it was watching "Saturday Night Live" as a child that did it for him. He said he was particularly fascinated with the celebrity impersonations of Dana Carvey, and the enjoyment Caviezel got in trying to duplicate those impressions made him realize that a future in acting was of definite interest. 

However, Caviezel also discovered a love for playing basketball, and that took him in a more athletic direction during his teen years. He played basketball throughout high school and continued into the early years of his college career, where his coach called Caviezel one of the hardest-working players he'd ever had. Caviezel even entertained dreams of eventually playing in the NBA, but the double-whammy of a foot injury and being humbled while playing against future hall-of-fame Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton resulted in a change of plans. "That guy depressed me," Caviezel said of Stockton on the SportsJam podcast. "I realized that I probably had to find another career, and thank god it was acting." 

His first screen credit put him in a scene with Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix

Jim Caviezel didn't immediately trade his basketball jersey for a SAG card. Before scoring screen roles, the Mount Vernon, Washington native did some local live theater in Seattle in his earliest ventures as an actor. But in 1991, he got his first taste of Hollywood when he landed a small role in Gus Van Sant's indie road drama "My Own Private Idaho." Though Caviezel's part was a small one — credited only as "airline clerk" — the actor still got to work with some incredible scene partners for his first time out by way of Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix

And with that, Hollywood's hooks were firmly sunk into the aspiring early-twenty-something actor, who wasted no time in relocating to Los Angeles to go full bore into his new career. The following year, he booked both another film ("Diggstown") as well as a small role on the TV series "The Wonder Years." Bringing things somewhat full circle, Caviezel played a basketball player on the show, allowing him the chance to finally put on a basketball jersey in a professional setting even if it wasn't the way in which he originally envisioned. Caviezel had little trouble staying busy after that, and has remained prolific on both the big and small screen ever since. 

He got accepted into Juilliard, but did a movie with Kevin Costner instead

Even though Jim Caviezel had already started to line up movie and TV roles just a couple of years into his screen acting career, he decided it might not be the worst idea to get some additional training in his craft. So he auditioned for a spot in Juilliard's acting program and was accepted, with the intent of starting his schooling in 1993. Around the same time, Caviezel was also offered the role of youngest Earp brother, Warren, in the then-upcoming Kevin Costner-starring western "Wyatt Earp." 

So, he had a choice to make — improve his acting chops by studying at Juilliard, or hone his craft on a movie set with actors like Costner, Gene Hackman, Dennis Quaid, Catherine O'Hara, Bill Pullman, and more, while under the direction of legendary filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan of "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" screenwriting fame. Ultimately, Caviezel decided to learn by doing, and put off Juilliard indefinitely. "Wyatt Earp" might have ended up being a box office flop, but it still added some heft to Caviezel's growing resume and his career only continued to ascend from there. 

A blind date led to marriage and three adopted children

Blind dates seem like they are only the stuff of rom-coms and sitcom storylines, but they do occur in real life — and sometimes they lead to a happily ever after. That's what happened when Jim Caviezel was set up on a blind date by the sister of his would-be wife. Like Caviezel, Kerri Browitt also played basketball in college, only she was a highly decorated player who was eventually named to the hall of fame of her school, Western Washington University.

Married in 1996, the couple has three children — David, Bo, and Lyn — all of whom were adopted from China and all of whom had cancer and were given a low chance of survival. The children all received life-saving surgeries and currently range in age from 12 to 23. As for her career, Kerri became a high school teacher and basketball coach, continuing to teach to this day. She also spent a number of years working at a Pregnancy Counseling Center in California and is a pro-life and adoption advocate who often speaks on those subjects at various events. 

He starred in Paul Feig's directorial film debut

After a series of small roles and big projects that didn't make the splash he probably would've hoped, Jim Caviezel's movie career finally turned a corner as the 1990s wound down. Terrence Malick's 1998 war epic "The Thin Red Line" marked a new high water mark for the film careers of several members of its cast, most notably George Clooney, Adrien Brody, and Caviezel. It was the highest Caviezel had been billed up to that point in a movie that was widely acclaimed, and it finally marked his arrival as a bona fide movie star.

Over the next handful of years, Caviezel added more high-profile films to his oeuvre, including "Frequency," "Pay it Forward," and "The Count of Monte Cristo." But it's also worth noting the 2003 drama "I Am David," which was not only among Caviezel's first true starring roles but also happened to be Paul Feig's directorial film debut. While now widely known as a filmmaker for movies like "Bridesmaids," "Spy," and 2016's "Ghostbusters," Feig was still primarily just the "Freaks and Geeks" guy at that point in his career — and "I Am David" was not only his first movie, but it remains one of his few non-comedic projects, period. 

He almost played Cyclops and was rumored to play Superman

While Jim Caviezel was busy racking up roles in big movies, he very nearly played a major role in one of the films that is credited for laying the foundation of superhero movies as we know them today. In the aforementioned IGN interview, Caviezel revealed that he was not only in mind to play Scott Summers aka Cyclops for Bryan Singer's 2000 "X-Men" movie, but had already been officially cast in the role. However, he had to drop out as he had already committed to "Frequency" and wouldn't have been able to do both movies. 

Also in that interview, Caviezel was asked about rumors that had been swirling at the time regarding his being attached to play Superman in Singer's upcoming sequel (that later became "Superman Returns"). Caviezel told IGN that he was interested in the role if the script was right and a director like Singer was attached. However, he confirmed to IESB.com (via Today) that, while indirect communications regarding him playing the role had occurred, he hadn't directly discussed it with Singer. Ultimately, Singer wanted an unknown in the role rather than an established star, and went with Brandon Routh instead — in large part because he looked and sounded similar to Christopher Reeve.

Mel Gibson warned Caviezel that playing Jesus would ruin is movie career

It wasn't an easy road for Mel Gibson to get his dream movie, "The Passion of the Christ," made. Unable to get any of the major studios behind him due to the subject matter, he had to fund and market the entire thing himself and through his own Icon Productions studio. He forged ahead anyway, unconcerned about the effect it might have on his career — and to his credit, Gibson made sure Jim Caviezel knew what he was getting into and the professional risk he was taking by starring in the movie.

"'If you take this part [of Jesus], you may not work in this town again,'" Gibson told Caviezel over the phone, as Caviezel recalled during a speaking engagement at Liberty University (via Premier Christian News). But Caviezel believed in the project, and he decided it was more important to do work you believe in rather than take the safe path. Indeed, Caviezel has only been in one high profile, major studio release — 2006's "Deja Vu" with Denzel Washington — since "The Passion of the Christ," and Caviezel says that it's because Hollywood did, in fact, turn on him just like Gibson said it would. 

Filming The Passion of the Christ almost killed him

It wasn't only his career that was negatively affected by making "The Passion of the Christ." Jim Caviezel was injured multiple times during the filming of the movie and even came close to dying near the end of the shoot. Early on, he dislocated his shoulder while carrying the heavy wooden cross that Jesus was crucified on — which ended up being one of the more minor things that Caviezel had to deal with.

Caviezel lost a significant amount of weight to play the role, which made him more susceptible to illness. He got pneumonia after both of his lungs filled with fluid during the long hours of having to hang on the cross in wet, cold weather. There was also a stray whip that missed the protective barrier set up behind him during the filming of the flogging scene, resulting in a 14-inch gash on his back. And Caviezel was also struck by lightning — though assistant director Jam Michelini was struck twice during the course of production. In addition to the scars, Caviezel also needed two heart surgeries after shooting wrapped as a result of what he endured during production.

Person of Interest wasn't his first major TV project

Jim Caviezel's biggest small screen role to date has been that of John Reese, the lead character for all five seasons of the CBS crime drama "Person of Interest." However, it wasn't the first high-profile television project Caviezel had starred in — that distinction belongs to a 2009 AMC miniseries called "The Prisoner," which predated the debut of "Person of Interest" by two years.

In "The Prisoner," Caviezel plays Michael, aka Number 6, one of a group of people who inexplicably wake up in an outdoor prison known as The Village with nothing more than vague memories of who they are or how they got there. The six-part miniseries also starred Ian McKellen, Hayley Atwell, and Jamie Campbell Bower. Reviews were mixed, but it was nominated for multiple awards, including Emmys for cinematography as well as McKellen's performance. 

Not only did Caviezel's high-profile TV career start before "Person of Interest," but it almost continued for several years after. The actor was originally cast as the lead of the pilot that eventually became the CBS — and later, Paramount+ — series "SEAL Team," which he exited due to creative differences. 

He is outspoken about his faith and how it guides his career

Even before playing Jesus Christ and subsequently appearing in several other religious films, Jim Caviezel had always been open about being Roman Catholic and the ways it affected his personal and professional choices. As early as 2001's "Angel Eyes," Caviezel was already speaking up for himself in terms of what he would and wouldn't do out of respect for both his faith as well as his marriage. While prepping to do a love scene with co-star Jennifer Lopez, he insisted that she keep her shirt on and they both keep their shorts on. The following year, he simply wouldn't do a love scene with Ashley Judd at all for "High Crimes" because of the amount of skin it was going to require him to show.

Caviezel also isn't one to shy away from wading into politics on behalf of his beliefs. In 2006, he appeared in an ad where he joined several other celebrities — including actor Patricia Heaton and quarterback Kurt Warner — in voicing opposition to a proposed amendment to the Missouri state constitution involving the use of embryos in stem cell research. The official position of the Catholic Church is that stem cell research is only ethical when using adult stem cells, but not when it involves human embryos. The issue is often connected to Catholicism's anti-abortion stance, and Caviezel has also been open about his opposition to abortion. 

Both he and the real-life activist he portrays in Sound of Freedom have faced accusations of supporting QAnon

With the exception of his time on "Person of Interest," Jim Caviezel has largely flown a bit under the mainstream pop culture radar since "The Passion of the Christ." But that all changed with the release of his 2023 film, "Sound of Freedom." In it, Caviezel plays Tim Ballard, an activist and author known for his work in combating human trafficking. While not a release by a major studio, "Sound of Freedom" has still gained a huge amount of notoriety and Caviezel has found himself making headlines — in part because of the movie's surprising box office success, but also due to various controversies around the film and the people involved in it.

Ballard and his supporters have been accused of perpetuating dangerous QAnon conspiracy theories in relation to Ballard's anti-trafficking work, which many believe actually sets the battle against child trafficking back rather than helping it. In addition, Caviezel himself has repeated various QAnon theories – including while promoting "Sound of Freedom" – most notably the unproven and unfounded theory that child traffickers use a process called adrenochrome harvesting, which is supposedly linked to satanic rituals used by the Hollywood elite and other powerful people to maintain their youth. As such, "Sound of Freedom" has also been dogged by accusations of being a pro-QAnon production and that the movie exists primarily as a vehicle for far-right political ideologies. Both Ballard and Caviezel have denied those claims. 

He remains attached to Mel Gibson's long-gestating Passion of the Christ sequel

It might seem as though a movie like "The Passion of the Christ" wouldn't normally be the type to have a sequel, but those who know the biblical story of Jesus's crucifixion also know that wasn't the end of the tale. Sure enough, Mel Gibson has been planning to do a follow-up movie that focuses on Jesus's resurrection for a while now, with significant work on the project traced back to at least 2016.

Both Jim Caviezel and Gibson have confirmed that Caviezel will reprise his role, with Caviezel claiming to have read a draft of the screenplay way back in 2018. At that point, he said the movie's title was going to be "The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection" and proclaimed to Breitbart News that, "It's going to be the biggest film in world history." The actor said an almost identical quote again in a July 2023 episode of the Shawn Ryan Show podcast, further explaining that the project might stretch across two and possibly even three additional films. As for when these movies will be released — or even begin production — the most recent rumblings suggest that fall 2023 is being targeted to start filming, but nothing as of yet has been confirmed. So it's all still quite a ways off at this point.