'Risen' Actor Cliff Curtis Shuts Himself Off From Family for 30 Days to Prepare for Role as Jesus

Risen film
A scene from the 2016 film "Risen." |

To become Jesus Christ, Cliff Curtis shut out his wife and family to live alone for 30 days.

In the upcoming film "Risen," Curtis plays Jesus in the story about the events that took place after the Messiah's resurrection. The film is told from the perspective of a fictional Roman military official named Clavius who is charged with the task of disproving the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

To prepare for the film, Curtis did more than just read the script.

"For a month I lived on my own in Malta and it was a really beautiful experience. I had very humble meals and I lived monastically pretty much," Curtis told Wenn, according to Scout. " I could not not speak to my wife because she's my other connection to the Divine. I didn't speak to anybody and I spent a lot of time in meditation and silence and would sit for hours alone."

The 47-year-old New Zealander considers it a miracle that he was cast as Jesus Christ, considering he has played villainous characters in "Live Free or Die Hard" and "The Last Airbender." Other than the fact that he has been typecast in many films, Curtis was surprised that he landed the role that Hollywood usually granted to younger actors with fairer skin complexions.

"Jesus was crucified by age 33 and I'm in my late 40s. And when you look at my work, what makes you think that I'm right for this role?" he asked. "It was a miracle. just thought I wasn't fair complexioned enough to get the role and I needed blue eyes."

For Curtis, gaining the opportunity to play Jesus was a pleasant surprise, since the former altar boy once dreamed about doing so.

"I was a devout Catholic as a child and I was an altar boy and served mass, and I did the whole thing and had the crucifix next to my bed, everything," he revealed. "So when I became an actor and the question would arise, 'What roles do you want to play?' I'd say, 'Jesus,' and it had become a running joke."

Aside from Curtis, the film stars Joseph Fiennes ("Shakespeare in Love") as Clavius, Tom Felton ("Harry Potter") as Clavius' aide Lucius, and Peter Firth ("Pearl Harbor") as Pontius Pilate.

When Curtis interacted with his fellow castmates on set, he continued to stay in character.

"My first encounter that I wanted to have with them is I wanted to wash their feet without words, because that's what Jesus would do. It was lunch break and they didn't know what was going on," he revealed. "I wouldn't say anything. They were just eating their lunch and I'd just point to them to come to me and I'd point to a seat and wash their feet."

While the film centers around the foundational character of Christianity, Fiennes points out that the film is told from the eyes of a nonbeliever.

"Risen is an incredible noir detective tale. That's the angle that appealed to me," he previously told USA Today. "That's where the detective work comes in. This is an extraordinary story and well-known to everyone. But it takes us on this journey through the eyes of a nonbeliever."

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