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Jim Caviezel: From Jesus to Bobby Jones

He stars as the golfer in ‘Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius’; his last role was as Jesus in ‘The Passion of the Christ’
/ Source: Reuters

For actor Jim Caviezel, taking the role of golfer Bobby Jones in a new movie debuting Friday was a no-brainer.

Caviezel had just finished being beaten to a bloody pulp, nailed to a wooden cross and hung until he died in the part of Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

“After getting whacked around a few times, I thought playing a little golf might be a nice change,” Caviezel told Reuters.

He jokes that he went from playing the “King of Kings” to being the “King of Swings.”

Jones is considered one of the greatest golfers who ever lived. He is the only player to win a coveted “grand slam” of golf, claiming four straight victories in the four major tournaments of his day, which he did in 1930.

But “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius” focuses on the player’s human side as he battled personal problems and illness that threatened to derail his golf career. The young Georgia native’s temper often caused him to miss shots, and the pressure of being a star was sometimes too much to handle.

Late in life, he was diagnosed with the spine disease syringomyelia, from which he had suffered for years. Early in his career, it caused crippling pain in his hands and legs.

He overcame all those issues to become a champion of the game he loved. Yet, at age 28, he quit playing golf to fulfill a promise to his wife to stay at home and help raise a family.

Other than the obvious relaxation factor, Caviezel said he took the part because he admired how Jones never shirked his responsibility as a role model to others, especially kids.

Jones held degrees in engineering and law, was a practicing attorney, and spoke six languages.

Role models“He was given a great talent, but he also embraced the responsibility of being a decent human,” Caviezel said.

Caviezel, 35, seems to be a decent guy, too, and is even shy when it comes to speaking in public. He is married, but he and his wife, Kerri, have no children. “Not yet,” he said.

The actor was raised in Washington state, and played basketball until an injury ended his playing days at the University of Washington in Seattle. He then took up acting.

He said the success of “Passion” — earning over $360 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices — has increased his fan base and boosted his career.

“I can’t even stay up with the stuff that is out there right now,” Caviezel said when asked about new projects. “It’s a nice problem to have.”

Until “Passion,” the actor had been seen mostly in secondary or supporting roles for over 10 years. Even the starring roles he did win generally came in little-seen movies like “Angel Eyes.”

In 2001, race boat film “Madison” in which he starred caused a stir at the Sundance Film Festival but never found a distributor. Caviezel said that now, with his new name recognition, “Madison” may finally land in theaters.

Caviezel characterized himself as “picky” when it comes to choosing roles and added the main criteria is whether the story being told in the movie is something in which he believes.

“Bobby Jones; I didn’t know much about him. I wasn’t interested in golf, but I loved his story,” Caviezel said.

In fact, Caviezel said he had never so much as hit a golf ball, and he quipped that on TV, “Martha Stewart was always a pleasure to watch over golf.”

But Jones’ life transcended his sport. He accepted the responsibility of being someone to whom people looked for guidance and inspiration.

“I respect that,” Caviezel said. “There are good athletes and entertainers out there who are like that, that do care, that do give back.”