Jim Caviezel: Playing Jesus

After an early misunderstanding (he thought the film was a surfing movie), Jim Caviezel was cast to play Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Caviezel was a brilliant choice -- and not only for his Christ-like appearance. A devout Catholic, he prayed for 15 minutes every morning before working out and went to mass every day during the filming. "My initials are J.C. and I'm 33 years old," Caviezel told James Cameron in one early discussion. "Jesus," Cameron replied, "you're freaking me out!"

Things got even freakier during a storm on the set one day (in October 2003). "I'm about a hundred feet away from them," producer Steve McEveety later recalled, "when I glance over and see lightning coming out of Caviezel's ears!"

"I saw pink," Caviezel recalled, "Extras were screaming, grabbing the ground. On film, you see this flash; then the camera pans, and there I am with my [shoulder-length] hair sticking stright up! Mel, who was 150 yards down the mountain and didn't know what had happened, started screaming, 'What the freak happened to his hair? MAKEUP!'"

[Assistant director "Lightning Boy" Michelini was also struck (when the main bolt forked and hit his umbrella). Incredibly, he had also been hit by lightning (and suffered light burns on the tips of his fingers) while filming on a hilltop in the town of Matera. No one was seriously injured in either incident. After the film's release, Caviezel was asked how he had prepared for the role. "I walked on my pool twice a day," he joked. "It's hard to do."]

[Caviezel, who once asked Jennifer Lopez to put clothes on before filming a raunchy sex scene and once refused to film a love scene with Ashley Judd, received an honorary degree from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania -- and delivered a fire-and-brimstone speech at their commencement in May 2003.]

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