HOLLYWOOD – In the latest in our celebrated Making of… series, we look at the behind the scenes drama that went into the making of Mel Gibson’s Science Fiction Horror film “The Passion of the Christ”.
Mel Gibson had for years been a life-long fan of tables and had wanted to make a film about the inventor of the table. However, he found financial backing hard to come by so fell back on his second project, a film about Jesus. He wrote to his father, a devoted right wing Catholic and author of the book: “The Pope is NOT Catholic”, describing the project:
At last pops, I’m getting the chance to make a film a film about a Christ. I haven’t chosen which one yet but I’m sure I’ll pick a good one.
His father replied:
A Christ? What on earth are you babbling about boy? There is only one Christ! The Christ! The Christ! And while you’re at it don’t forget to mention that he invented the table.
Mel was overjoyed that now his dream project had combined and was finally receiving the financing that would make it possible.
Finding Jesus had been a difficult process but Mel finally found his star when he saw a man being horsewhipped in an S&M party. ‘It was the realism I was looking for,’ Gibson said. ‘I bought Jim a drink and it turned out, as well as adoring S&M he was also a committed Catholic as well.
Jim Caviezel has already made a film with Terrence Malick – The Thin Red Line – but was happy to be making another as he feared he might not even appear in Malick’s finished film. He describes the shoot:
We shot The Passion of The Christ in Rome. It was physically a hard shoot. I wanted it to be as realistic as possible and so me and Mel were certainly on the same page. All that blood you see on the screen that’s my blood. It got so we had an ambulance standing by and they’d give me a quick blood transfusion so we could continue with the beating and the whipping and the nailing and the bleeding. My only disagreement with Mel, creatively, was at the end of the movie. He wanted that I come out of the cave and there to be a couple of Jewish elders there, those we’d seen at the beginning of the film in the Temple making crosses and what not. And I’d kind of rip their heads off. We actually filmed the scene, but wiser heads prevailed.
Although a massive commercial hit, The Passion of the Christ was considered controversial in some quarters for its anti-Semitic undertones. The Pope, however, was a big fan and wrote an encyclical letter in which he stated:
Mel Gibson has used all the arts of the cinema to recreate the grand suffering of Our Savior Jesus (the) Christ. It’s like Braveheart on a cross, Mad Max meets St. Matthew’s Passion. Five stars.
The Passion of the Christ was released in 2004.