Actor’s father is passionate about son’s success

He’s one of five, which is quickly clear to visitors at his father’s chiropractic office.

Photographs show the five Caviezel siblings in their various endeavors – serving as legislative pages in Olympia, playing basketball, graduating from college and getting together as a family.

James Caviezel Sr. and his wife, Maggie, who live on Camano Island, have every reason to be proud of their accomplished brood.

Ann and Amy live with their husbands in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and are mothers of young children. There’s Tim, who played basketball for the University of Washington and is in real estate in the Lake Tahoe area. Erin, the youngest, has taken her father’s career path. She’s studying at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.

And then there’s Jim.

There are no pictures in the Mount Vernon chiropractor’s office of the year’s most-talked-about movie. Glancing at the smiling faces lining the walls, you’d never know. You wouldn’t guess the lanky son with short dark hair and a 100-watt smile is James Caviezel Jr., the tortured and triumphant Jesus of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

“It was tougher than anything,” the elder Caviezel said of the movie shoot in Italy. “He spent five weeks filming on that cross. Packing that 150-pound cross – it had no shoulder pads or wheels – was physically and mentally straining.”

His strong Catholic faith helped the 35-year-old actor weather the ordeal that caused an injured shoulder, said his father, 63.

“They had Latin Mass every day before filming,” Caviezel Sr. said.

He and his wife moved to Camano Island four years ago. Their children grew up in Conway and Mount Vernon, where they attended Catholic schools. Jim graduated from Kennedy, a Catholic high school in Seattle, where he played basketball, and then attended Bellevue Community College and the University of Washington.

“Jim called one day and said, Dad I want to do some modeling and I need $300 for pictures.’ And I thought, uh-oh,” he said.

Through work with a Seattle modeling agency doing clothing ads, the younger Caviezel met someone at an acting agency who encouraged him to pursue a film career. He took drama classes and acted in dinner theater before moving to Los Angeles. Acting was one of several dreams.

“At one point, he wanted to be a fighter pilot. He wanted to be a pro basketball player. He had that intensity. He was never the best, but he would outwork anybody else,” said Caviezel Sr., who played basketball at UCLA in the early 1960s for legendary coach John Wooden.

Once in Hollywood, his son appeared in an episode of “The Wonder Years” as a basketball player and in small roles in the films “My Own Private Idaho” and “Diggstown.”

A break came when he was cast in the 1994 film “Wyatt Earp” playing brother Warren Earp to Kevin Costner’s title role. His breakthrough was four years later as Pvt. Witt in Terrence Malick’s World War II saga, “The Thin Red Line.”

“We were all there for the premiere in L.A. We were used to seeing him on-screen for half a second, and he’s in the first 20 minutes of the movie. It was wonderful,” Caviezel Sr. said.

Watching “The Passion,” which he and his wife saw in Burlington the day it opened, was surreal, he said. In the opening scene in the garden of Gethsemane, “it was our son,” Caviezel Sr. said. But through the scourging and crucifixion, “he morphed into Jesus.”

“It wasn’t a popcorn movie,” he added. “We were speechless, almost.”

Caviezel Sr. said because Gibson wasn’t certain the film would be profitable, the actor didn’t take a salary. “He’ll get a percentage,” was all he said of his son’s paycheck. Now a blockbuster, “The Passion” has taken in about $400 million to date.

Caviezel Sr. said he’s glad the success didn’t come when his son was younger. Married six years to his wife, Kerri, the actor “has been around good people,” his father said.

Due out April 30 is “Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius,” about Georgia golfer Robert Tyre Jones Jr. In 1930, Jones became a Grand Slam champion. He remains the only golfer ever to win the British Amateur, the British Open, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur the same year. Caviezel Jr. plays the title role.

“They wanted him to play another part because he wasn’t a golfer,” the actor’s father said. “He said, I can learn.’ So they sent him to Texas to work with pro golfers eight hours a day.”

His son is left-handed but had to play right-handed.

That couldn’t have been easy. But compared with that last role, it must have been.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlsteinjulie@heraldnet.com.

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