JIM CAVIEZEL Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
October 12, 2004
In the science fiction thriller The Final Cut, society has the technology to implant devices into the brains of humans that will record their memories from birth to death. Known as the Zoe chip, this controversial landmark of man's ingenuity is removed upon the demise of the implantee, and the lifetime of memories it contains is edited by a "cutter" into a Rememory--a film-like storyboard that is played at the deceased's funeral. But how truthful is that summary of one person's life when it is ultimately just the vision of the cutter, who manipulates fragments of memory as he or she sees fit?
In The Final Cut, Jim Caviezel stars opposite Robin Williams as Fletcher, a former cutter who harbors a questionable agenda of his own. The actor who skyrocketed to monumental notoriety for his portrayal of Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ took the time to speak with us, and in this exclusive interview, he discusses his role in this cautionary tale and the underlying themes of right versus wrong.
RadioFree.com: What was the timeline of your shooting schedule for The Passion of the Christ, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, and The Final Cut?
JIM: Let's see here...After The Passion was Bobby Jones, and then Final Cut, and more Passion. Passion has been going on for a long, long time and these supporting roles--and there was another one, I Am David, which I did right before that--were the only things I could do to fit in with The Passion. And this one just happened to benefit my schedule. I went in and shot The Final Cut and was able to get something that, to my feeling, had a lot of value in it.
After playing the title roles in both The Passion of the Christ and Bobby Jones, was it a bit of a relief to play a character like Fletcher, where the focus wasn't so exclusively on you?
Sure. But I so love what I do. It is my (no pun) passion. I love to reinvent. I was made to do this and I want to continue to do it, and I enjoy putting together pieces that people go, "Wow" in some way or another, whether it's a good wow or bad wow. But what drew me to this material was even though it is dark, there's still truths in it. It's an allegory to what you see in the world, in all technologies and innate things, like in my character, how he rationalizes to get ahead.
So what's your take on Fletcher? Is he a villain, a hero, or does it fall into a grey area?
There's a lot of evil and grey area. And he's so blinded in his own belief. And whether you're playing in medieval times or back in the times of The Passion, there are good men, there are bad men. And people that play in the grey, to me, are still evil people because they know what they're doing. And this guy is lost, maybe. He can't see it. But Robin Williams' character starts talking about universal principles, and it starts to eat in his conscience. And then that seed is planted in him enough that he makes the right choice. But it doesn't mean he carries it out properly at the end.
If The Final Cut is a cautionary fable, what would you say is the moral of the story?
[deep breath] Moral of the story...Remember reading the book Animal Farm? Or 1984? Or even some of Alfred Hitchcock's films. This one is a great reflector in the moral of situational ethics. It depends what the situation is, and it's an inevitable thing. As far as any technology, whether it be scientific or medical, it's not just about this technology which everyone gets crazy about. How is it going to help society? The question you have to ask yourself is, "Are you hurting anybody along the way?" So somewhere in there, there's a moral--taking it off society and on yourself, you know? Evil prevails when good people sit back and do nothing. What evil are you suppressing in yourself? In men's hearts, there's enough evil going on. Eventually, it has to come out in the open. And we have to justify all that, and then what do we do? We make evil good, and good evil. And this is really bad. So even though this is a dark film, there are truths that come through it.
Were the cutters justified in what they were doing? Ultimately, did their ends justify their means?
No, I don't see that at all. It's kind of like in society when we kill human beings to justify technology. Killing people to have better technology or to improve it to save lives later is...you don't have an immoral action to have a moral result. This is ridiculous. For money, for growth, economy, profit, what have you. China, how they abuse human rights, it's ridiculous. But for capitalism, "Oh, let's import and export, we shouldn't cut them out." I don't agree with that at all. I watched a piece on 20/20 when they lined twenty people up and they blindfolded them and they shot them in the back of the head, and then they had the organ donor program. And when your organs line up with somebody in the United States that needs a liver or kidney...you pay $30,000, $35,000 for that and you get it. This is sick. Yes, we have the technology to do that, but you don't kill human beings. And you think, "Well, maybe these were evil people, they robbed, they killed." No, these are religious, persecuted people. These are people that were in Tiananmen Square, that were shot. Maintain their society and import and export for money--it's wrong. The ends doesn't justify the means. That's how I feel about that.
Considering your strong positions on social, political, and ethical issues, are there certain organizations that you actively support? Specific causes you are for or against?
Well, I was going through Malibu the other day, and I saw these rocks that were like hanging over. And I liked that God put them there, you know? [deadpan] And, uh...I'm against people pushing those rocks over. [laughs loudly]
[laughing, after realizing it was a joke]
I did that to Sean Penn. I said, "Look at this, see this rock right here?" This is in The Thin Red Line. He said, "Yeah." I said, "I have a kind of a charity thing." I was just trying to get twenty bucks from him. [laughs] And this thing weighs about fifty million tons, right? But it's just hanging there, it looks like it's going to fall. And I said, "I'm against people pushing those rocks."
Save the rocks!
Save the rocks! [laughs] Yeah, I have my own things. I have things that I do.
You landed your role in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho by passing yourself off as an Italian immigrant to casting directors. Given that fact, as well as your performances in The Passion and Bobby Jones, would you say you have a particular talent for mimicking many styles of speech?
That's how I started, was mimicking people. I used to watch Saturday Night Live every...what day is that? Oh, Saturdays! Anyways... [laughs] They were hysterical, and I just would study why those people made me laugh. And then I would watch how they were mimicking things and I found I had a talent for that. I would start impersonating my friends and family and accents. I worked at it long enough to where I could get it. And everybody has a certain behavior that they do continually--a certain look or whatnot. I'm aware I have my own, but when you play those characters, you have to get rid of that. Because playing that character, it brings people in that world. It's all, at the end of the day, about people going on a journey, and my job is to make sure that's executed well.
So do you have any impersonations that you're known for amongst your friends?
[suddenly breaks out into the most unexpectedly perfect impression of Bobcat Goldthwait arguing with himself] "You know, uhm, you know who Bob Goldthwait is, uhm..." "Hey, shut up!" "All right, sorry!"
[laughing] That's great! Jim, thank you very much for your time.