London, Jan. 23: With the star spending 15 days on a cross getting right his scene at Calvary, there is a lot of suffering on the set of The Passion, a new account of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ being filmed in Rome by Mel Gibson.
Gibson, a devout Roman Catholic, insisted that meticulous attention was being given in the £18-million production chronicling the violence of the Romans.
“It’s going to be hard to take,” he said. “When the Romans scourged you, it wasn’t a nice thing. Think about the Crucifixion — there’s no way to sugarcoat that.”
Jesus is played by James Caviezel, 35, who was last seen as Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo.
The Washington-born actor, who was recently blessed by the Pope, injured his shoulder after being whipped and crucified. “There’s an immense amount of suffering on this,” he said. “Fortunately, God is helping me.”
Mary Magdalane is played by Monica Bellucci, an Italian sex symbol, and the Virgin Mary is played by a Romanian actress, Maia Morgenstern.
Gibson, an Oscar-winner for Braveheart, fears that a press attack is imminent. “When you touch this subject, it does have a lot of enemies,” he said.
Asked if he feared the film would upset Jews, he replied: “It may. It’s not meant to. I think it’s just meant to tell the truth.”
He added: “This has been germinating inside me for 10 years. I have a deep need to tell this story. It’s part of your upbringing.”
Gibson, whose daughter Hannas is to become a nun, said that with actors speaking Latin and Aramaic, the local vernacular of Palestine in the time of Christ, audiences will be challenged, especially as no sub-titles will be supplied. He said: “The audience will have to focus on the visuals.”
The script is based upon several sources, including the diaries of St Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) as collected in the book, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Mystical City of God by St Mary of Agreda, and the gospels.
Until now, Gibson has kept the set — at Italy’s Cinecitta studio where La Dolce Vita, Ben Hur and Gangs of New York were shot — closed to outsiders, after becoming angry over media pestering of his 85-year-old father, Hutton, and other relatives.
The film is expected to be ready for release at Easter next year.