The actor James Caviezel, who plays Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ," met with Pope John Paul II on Monday at the Vatican. Afterward Mr. Caviezel talked with me briefly by phone from Rome. I asked him what it was like, and transcribed what he said.
"I walked into
the room and I was laughing at myself--who am I, where I'm from, and now
I'm going in and sitting here having this huge meeting. And there's the
pope sitting there in a chair with a chair next to him and I am to sit
in it. I had an opportunity to see him when I was a boy, but I didn't
because I had to study for a Spanish test that I probably didn't study
for anyway. But my family came back and they were overjoyed. That was
in 1984, when the pope came to Vancouver, British Columbia.
"Did you ever read the pope's Letter to the Artists of the World? I read it several times when I was a young actor. It was very important to me. It came out and I remember what he said is that part of the truth, right, is accepting--you can't just write about darkness and say 'This is the way it is,' because light always comes through. It must. If you went into a 40,000-foot warehouse, even if you just light a match the match pierces the darkness. It pierces even in the vast amount of darkness. As I see it, the movie is a light, it is a match.
"So the first thing I began to talk about was his Letter to the Artists. I told him it gave me great strength in my life and my career. I thanked him. I said, 'Thank you.' The pope--this is a very holy man. He's seen the Nazis and the communists [and there were] people he knew that understand what a regime is like and what they do, and how they can take your freedom from you. He's seen it. This is the pope from Fatima. I think the guy's a mystic. He's a saint. I'm not impressed by celebrity--that word is bad when you're standing in front of a saint. But something moved me. I know he is a saint.
"I wanted a blessing for my marriage and my family. The other thing I said--the point of the film, I always knew if it's gonna rock you have to have Mary. There are different Christian traditions and ways and views, but let the Holy Spirit do his work, I'm not denying the mother. What her son said on the cross, 'Mother behold your son, Son behold your mother'--it's one of the seven things Jesus said on the cross. He said it. You can't leave it out, so if you include it you have to develop it, you have to tell the story, to show it. He was giving his mother to the world. He gave his mother to John, to the world.
"So the second
thing I said to the pope is, 'You boldly put the M on your crest.' The
Blessed Mother on his crest. She is the one I think who made the movie
for her Son. I told [the pope], 'Your statement, your example.' She knew
the great pain. We put her son to death for saying, 'Be a good person.'
Well, he told the truth. The truth cuts like a sword. That's the sword
right there, 'Be a good person.'
"This is a very
intense time in my life. The first part of my life was a leading up to
this, a preparation. You learn a lot. You shouldn't hold on to things,
to neuroses. People, artists, think they have to hold on to their neuroses,
their pains, or they won't be a good actor anymore or a good artist. That's
the Liar. The Liar tells you that. You hold on to them, you'll just wind
up a lonely person. People become lonely with time, and the fame has moved
on to someone else. You have to heal, you have to maintain relationships
and get rid of dysfunction and neurosis. That's why we say the Our Father--'Deliver
us from evil.'
love my church. I love my church and through my church I see my country
as the greatest gift God gave us, freedom.