What It Means to Play Jesus in Films

Can a man play Jesus too many times? Bruce Marchiano doesn’t think so.

He is best known for playing Jesus in 1993 “The Visual Bible: Matthew” and now he’s back as Jesus with a slight change of costume – shirt and jeans – in “The Encounter.”

But why would he choose to be Jesus again, five times to be specific, especially when Jim Caviezel recently stated that playing Jesus in “The Passion” made him somewhat of a reject in the Hollywood industry.

Marchiano’s immediate reaction: it’s like saying no to $100 million. “It’s a breathtaking opportunity as a Christian, as an actor [to play Jesus],” he told The Christian Post.

The 56-year-old actor said that it’s not much about being rejected from Hollywood but rather being typecast as the “smiling Jesus” – something he considers a compliment – rather than being recognized for his talent.

“It’s more like I was typecast than rejected. They had a hard time viewing me in contemporary roles after that. To be honest, it’s the greatest compliment of all. It means that they totally lost sight of me as they were watching the film and all they saw was Jesus and so that actually was the greatest compliment of all.”

The downside of it all is making a living, he said, all the while remaining positive about it by asserting that “He’s my provider at the end of the day.”

Having a ministry, writing books about faith, and going to Africa for mission work can turn off the industry, he said, because they know what he represents before fulfilling his role as an actor.

Before working on “The Encounter,” now available on DVD, the actor struggled with it a bit; after all, Jesus never worked in the diner and wore jeans, according to the Gospels. “It’s different from what I did before with Matthew and it seems kind of funny but it finally dawned on me to do it exactly the same and the only thing that would change is the costume. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

He added, “No matter the costume, no matter the century, it’s all just portraying his heart. His heart doesn’t change, the costume changes, the setting changes, the interaction changes but he never changes.”

Understanding and living by Jesus’ heart has not always been easy, he confessed. After playing Jesus for the first time, being cautious about his life choices and the things he did or said was his main priority. Being an ambassador for Jesus was never an easy job.

“In the beginning, I was just a little too self-conscious about it but I was challenged by it and inspired by it and excited to represent Jesus.”

Overcoming self-consciousness led him to realize that “the truth is that all of us need to be playing Jesus in our daily life. If we all do that then the world will get saved tomorrow.”

“Sometimes we are all stuck thinking ‘I am an individual and God gave me my personality’ and blah blah blah but we are all actually created in His image and we are in the business of being restored to that.”

In “The Encounter,” starring Marchiano, Aliona Adsinets, Jaci Velasquez, and Steve “Sting” Borden, five heartbroken strangers take refuge in a deserted diner, “Last Chance Diner,” where they all get answer to their deepest questions from Jesus.

While the movie hasn’t received positive reviews, Marchiano’s only response is to look at the 50 people that gave their lives to Jesus on the day it was screened.

“My answer to the critics: God bless you, I’m sorry you didn’t like the movie but people are getting saved. At the end of the day, that is what we are about when we make Christian movies.”

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