We recently had the chance to speak with Jim Caviezel, a director and an award-winning actor who portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson’s groundbreaking film “The Passion of the Christ” (2004). We talked about his new movie “Infidel” (2020), Christian persecution in the Middle East and counting the cost of following Jesus.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Tell us a little bit about “Infidel,” your role and what the film’s message is.
You have an Evangelical theologian [my character] at a university, married to a secular woman who loves him regardless of his beliefs. He felt called to be with her. He goes to Saudi Arabia to speak on theology, on Christianity. In the conversation, going back and forth — and this is all on Islamic TV — the man interviewing my character pivots and says, “Yes, we see Jesus like you. He’s a prophet.” And that’s where my character, Doug, has to make a decision, and it’s one that has huge effects. He needs to deny his faith or die.
I won’t tell you what ends up happening, but it’s quite an interesting story. He is persecuted heavily and tortured heavily by Hezbollah and has this long conversation back and forth with his persecutor. Can he lay his life down for Jesus?
Many Christians today, especially in [America], have a lot of creature comforts so we don’t ever think that that could take place.
Cyrus Nowrasteh, who directed and wrote [“Infidel”], is from Iran, and he understands the persecutions like no other, and his parents do. His family is Muslim, but he’s a convert. And he converted because his wife had this extraordinary level of magnetism from heaven. He couldn’t continue to go in that direction any longer. I think the Islamic regime is afraid of that truth.
What is happening in the Middle East right now with believers? Do we really understand what the cost of following Jesus is?
When we came into our hotel — just to paint a picture — they have a place where a wall comes up. A steel wall, so you can’t drive a truck up and blow it up and kill people inside. Now, why would they have that? Because there were over 60 people killed in the lobby when a guy walked up and got himself an ice cream cone, sat down and detonated a bomb on his chest.
So this is what we’re looking at. But this film is not an anti-Muslim film. There are heroes in this film that are Muslims that actually stand up for Christians. I was looking at some of my notes when Cyrus said, “I don't want you to be concerned with offending Muslims.” I was laughing, because here is a former Muslim, and his family is Muslim. It was very callous, the way he said it. He said, “While the rest of the world panders to extremist Muslims, the real victims are Muslims. The ones who aren’t extreme. The ones who want peace. They are the people group most oppressed by Islamic regimes, such as Iran. You’re not harming Muslims by taking a stand against radicals. You’re helping them.” Christians have to start waking up and getting to that level.
We talk about Christian persecution, but we forget that there is a massive Christian underground in the Middle East, particularly in Iran where Christianity is growing. Did you discover that as you were filming “Infidel”?
Even more profound were the amount of guys that I worked with, because I played Jesus. They saw [The Passion of the Christ]. And it unearthed them. Think about it. You’re absolutely pulled out of your roots that there’s someone far greater than Muhammad: Jesus.
We have Jesus, who we say is God Almighty, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity. We are in awe of who He is. And I explained that to them, and they had the utmost respect for “The Passion” because what we claimed in front of the world is that [Jesus] isn’t just some do-gooder guy.
His flesh undertook the tortures of Satan, the Luciferians, everything they could throw at Him and He took it because love was so much more powerful. And that is what they are drawn to.
It's been 16 years since “The Passion of the Christ” came out. What are you seeing as that role still carries such weight?
I did a film a few years before “The Passion” called “Frequency” (2000), and the man who played my father was Dennis Quaid. He said, “Okay, I'm going to give you my advice: never play Superman.” Well, what was extraordinary is I went and made the movie. “The Passion” came out, and it was one of the wonderful experiences I’ve ever gone through and definitely one of the worst experiences I’ve ever been through.
And so, I was at the Cannes Film Festival, and it was very unpleasant. That would be the secular capital of the industry during the summer months. I ran into Dennis Quaid. And he says, “Jim, I’ve gotta tell you. I saw the film. If you never do another thing in this industry, that’s it. You did something.”
I went to the Academy Awards during that time. I wasn't invited or anything like that, but [The Passion of the Christ was] the biggest film at the time and that year, and one of the biggest in world history — and it was just an independent film. I was watching the people surrounding me, watching the people who won the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress and Best Director. As I looked in the crowd, I could see last year’s winners sitting on the sidelines. How quick glory vanishes. It’s really not worth what we have waiting for us in heaven. Don't make this your heaven. You have to hold on to your convictions regardless of what and how much they offer. All money isn’t good. Some fame is infamous.
We need to know the Word of God because that’s how we need to live.
Scripture is what this character in “Infidel” understands. He was so turned on by the Word of God, turned on in a way where something touched him so deeply that he wanted to witness the truth to people and to his students. But then, God asks him something deeper, “Go to them, go to Saudi Arabia.”
Now, his wife would probably say to him, because she’s protecting him, “That’s nuts in this ‘cancel culture.’ You will die because you will not have help here in the United States.” This is not like the 70s, when we had hostages in Iran. Many of them were Christians, and our media did a good thing: they kept them out there every day in the papers and put a lot of pressure on our politicians. That was a different time back then. Now, he would go and he would probably die. And yet, his heart was on fire for our Lord.
I think that was why I wanted to do this film. Because I saw a man, like me, standing up for his faith, and maybe no one else will. But the fact is, I know our Lord deserves to be loved and and come hell or high water I'm going to do it.
My brothers and sisters, set yourselves apart from this corrupt generation. Be saints. You were not made to fit in. You were born to stand out. And in the words of Ronald Reagan, “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.”
Watch the full interview with Jim Caviezel on My Faith Votes’ Youtube channel.
“Infidel” is in theaters now. Click here to find a showing near you.
My Faith Votes is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square. Learn more at MyFaithVotes.org.