Jim Caviezel: 'At Least I Had Thirty Years of Normality'

As Jim Caviezel told me quite a few times last week, Hollywood's got a short memory, and an actor tends to be offered nothing but variations on his last big part -- a tall order, if that role was playing Jesus Christ. Since acting in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ in 2004, Caviezel hasn't necessarily been an easy actor to cast, and some of his larger projects -- like the sci-fi adventure Outlander, which was shunted off by the Weinstein Company -- haven't provided the big bump he hoped for. AMC's miniseries remake of The Prisoner, however, falls right into his wheelhouse: Not only is it getting a splashy, three-night release beginning in the spot just vacated by Mad Men, but Caviezel's role plays to his strengths, casting him as a lone man in a world that doesn't understand him (save for a few acolytes convinced by his fervor).

Movieline talked to a game, slightly punchy Caviezel about The Prisoner's theme of paranoia, a motorcycle accident that left the actor better able to relate to his character, and his unlikely friendship with co-star Ian McKellen, which crosses political lines.

Hi, Jim.

Heyyyyy Kyle. Where's my money?

I...what? I don't have your money.

Movieline. Movieline.

Yeah, Movieline. But anyway, The Prisoner! You know, it's a pretty ambiguous piece of work, and you're never quite sure what's actually happening and what's imagined. Is that easy for you play as an actor?

I embraced it. It's kind of like waking up from a dream: It makes perfect sense when you're having the dream, and then you wake up and you try to explain the dream to people. Maybe someone can interpret it for you. With this process, people will watch it, and it'll be like they're all having the same dream. [Laughs] They won't understand it together, and they will understand it together.

Are you looking forward to people analyzing it online?

That's why I like Starbucks: You sit around and discuss ideas. It's like poetry. A good poet writes and there's a linear and a nonlinear line there. Everybody has a different interpretation of it. If they had a book where the poet then explained everything to you, then it really wouldn't be poetry at all.

Can you relate to that theme in The Prisoner of being under surveillance?

Yeah. You know, I've been acting for about twenty years now. In the last ten years, I've been famous, and I'm lucky that for thirty years of it, I was unknown. This is a business that can stunt your growth. It's surreal. You go to the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, or the grocery store, and it's like a safari on actors. Looking at all that and feeling that is quite surreal, and so is The Prisoner. I'm never quite used to it. I remember somewhere along the line when it used to be pretty normal. At least I had thirty years of normality.

Then things got crazy?

Oh, there's nothing like this summer! I was on a motorcycle, driving my Harley up where I grew up, and I got on the highway and a guy threw his bike into my path. I was at sixty miles an hour and I got thrown and had to go the hospital, and I was thinking, "OK, how do I keep this one out of the press?" When they asked me for my Social Security number, I didn't give it to them. I said, "I'm fine, I just have a scratch on my hand. I appreciate it, thank you." The next day, regardless, it was everywhere. That definitely reminded me of The Prisoner. It's just extraordinary that the next day I woke up and my phone had over fifty messages on it. You're already screening calls. You're really not alone anymore. You're always being watched.

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