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Film Role Was So Brutal Lead Actor Needed Two Heart Surgeries After Production

Simon Catling

| Last updated 

Film Role Was So Brutal Lead Actor Needed Two Heart Surgeries After Production

Featured Image Credit: Icon Productions

Hollywood actors are a superstitious bunch and the idea of the cursed role is nothing knew.

However, few can be regarded as more damned than the role of Jesus Christ himself - as Passion of the Christ star Jim Caviezel can testify.

Directed by Mel Gibson, Passion of the Christ grossed over $612 million worldwide at the end of its theatrical run and became one of the most talked-about films of all time, due to its polarising scenes of graphic violence - in particular the final suffering before his crucifixion.

Credit: Icon Productions
Credit: Icon Productions

Caviezel was at the heart of that violence - and unfortunately, there was no stunt double to take the blows for him.

As Today reported around the time of the film's release, Caviezel had a catalogue of injuries during the making of the religious epic.

He dangled nearly naked on a cross in cold winds through weeks of filming. He was struck by lightning during a recreation of the Sermon on the Mount.

He also suffered a 14-inch gash in his back during scenes of Christ's scourging.

Caviezel also dislocated his shoulder carrying the cross, and caught pneumonia and a lung infection. He endured cuts, scrapes and backaches from the chains he wore.

The lightning was particularly brutal, however, and the actor, now 52, has explained to the Catholic Courier that the fallout was so bad he underwent open heart surgery...twice.

"It nearly killed me," he said back in 2018.

"Not many people get struck by lightning; I did. Five and a half months of cold. I had to have two heart surgeries, including open-heart surgery, because of that film.

"Going out in the cold, at night, and the wind chill, was tremendous. We were at a thousand-foot cliff and the winds would come down on top of it. I had a dislocated left shoulder."

"On top of that I had pneumonia. I got really sick," he recalled.

"But if we had shot that film in a studio, you wouldn't have seen that performance. Was it worth it? Absolutely."

Caviezel no doubt committed himself to the cause, and given the film's huge return at the box office, it at least set him up for a stellar acting career that's continued over the past 17 years.

Except, who can remember a single film he's done since? Unfortunately for the one-time ascendant actor, the role ultimately derailed his career due to the divisive nature of its content.

Credit: Icon Productions
Credit: Icon Productions

Talking to CBN back in 2004, Caviezel said that Mel Gibson himself warned him that the role would ruin his career.

Quoting the director, Caviezel said: "'I want you to be aware of what you are going to go through. You may never work again.'

"He said that several times publicly.

"I told him, 'Mel, this is what I believe. We all have a cross to carry. I have to carry my own cross.

"'If we don't carry our crosses, we are going to be crushed under the weight of it. So let's go and do it.' And we began with the film."

In truth, the film didn't help Mel Gibson much either. He was criticised for his portrayal of Jewish people in the film and for comments around it.

There's no denying, though, that it's poor Jim Caviezel who suffered most in this truly cursed role.

Simon Catling
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