Caviezel Plays Through At Cannes

American actor Jim Caviezel promoting the golf movie "Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius," poses at the 57th International Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 16, 2004.
Jim Caviezel has gone from the ultimate peacemaker to a guy who hurls golf clubs in rage.

Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ," has the title role in "Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius," a film biography about the golfing great whose personal demons included a fierce temper.

The actor played basketball in college but was not a golfer. Luckily, Jones, a golf champion for much of the 1920s, left behind a series of how-to films that Caviezel scrutinized.

"I'd watch his footage and then watch what I was doing, his natural swing and mine," Caviezel, 35, said Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival, where he was promoting "Bobby Jones" in the Cannes market, one of the world's biggest showcases for movies seeking international distributors. "I think we were able to get it close, maybe 95 percent, but his flexibility was something I didn't have.

"You really have to work at that game, but it's really great for actors because of the mental, physical and spiritual. There's a kind of combo thing that when it all comes together, what a feeling. The same thing you get in acting."

"Bobby Jones" opened weakly in late April in the United States, pulling in just US$1.2 million over opening weekend from a fairly wide release of 1,332 theaters. Caviezel hopes the feel-good movie, with its positive message of perseverance through adversity, will find an audience on home video and in theaters overseas.

Gibson's "The Passion" vaulted Caviezel into unfamiliar blockbuster territory. The US$368 million U.S. and Canadian haul for "The Passion" is about $US80 million more than the combined grosses for the other 10 movies in which Caviezel has had a significant role.

No Hollywood studio would touch "The Passion," which weathered fierce criticism from some Jewish and Christian leaders who said the movie could revive old accusations that Jews collectively were responsible for Christ's death.

Gibson hired a distributor to release "The Passion" and now stands to make US$250 million or more off it, according to estimates in Hollywood trade papers.

Caviezel worked for a pittance on "The Passion," whose US$25 million budget Gibson financed himself. Gibson has pledged to share the wealth with his star, Caviezel said, though he would not discuss details of any bonuses he expects.

"That was the plan from the get-go. He's enormously generous, enormously generous," Caviezel said. "But I know he hasn't even been paid yet. It takes a while."

Caviezel grew up in rural Washington state and moved to Los Angeles after college to try acting. His break came with a pivotal role in 1998's war epic "The Thin Red Line."

That led to major roles in the thrillers "Frequency," "Angel Eyes" and "High Crimes," along with the title role in "The Count of Monte Cristo."

And since "The Passion"? Caviezel said he has far more scripts than ever to choose from.

"Anonymity, obviously, is gone. A lot of that, but not everywhere. People don't always recognize me because they're still expecting to see the beard and long hair," said Caviezel, who is close-shaven with his hair cut short.

"The controversy was hard. I didn't realize it was going to be the way it was," said Caviezel, a devout Roman Catholic. "But it was the faith I had growing up, and I felt obligated to tell the story the way we told it."

By David Germain By David Germain