Hundreds flooded into the Finnegan Fieldhouse on Sunday, March 4, to view a panel discussion with actor Jim Caviezel that promoted and informed the audience about his new movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ.”
Caviezel, who plays St. Luke in the film, rose to fame for his portrayal of Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ,” with other notable projects including “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “Person of Interest.”
He was joined on stage by Eric Groth, an alumnus of Franciscan University of Steubenville and executive producer of “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” as well as Scott Hahn, a professor of biblical theology at the university. The panel was led by Raymond Arroyo, host of “The World Over” on EWTN.
While the doors to the Fieldhouse opened at 6:30 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. event, attendees were waiting outside in the cold weather for hours ahead of time, with the line reaching back to Cosmos and Damian Hall.
Arroyo spent the program asking each panel member questions pertaining to the film and its biblical basis. The men emphasized the importance of the story of St. Paul and his writings.
“For the past 2,000 years, no other writer has had the same influence as St. Paul,” said Hahn.
The trailer for the film, as well as two clips, was played for the audience. The panel discussed many of the central themes of the film, including the friendship between St. Paul and St. Luke and the suffering during the persecution of the early church.
“This movie is, essentially, what happens when your mentor goes,” said Caviezel, describing how the apostles first fared without Jesus. Caviezel discussed how he too experienced losses of loved ones leading up to the movie, which encouraged him to take on the role and add a personal dimension to it.
When asked if he felt pressure portraying St. Luke after famously portraying Jesus over a decade ago, Caviezel said that he did not, and that his old role helped shape his current one. “Aren’t we at our greatest when the world sees Jesus in each one of us?” he asked.
Ultimately, the panel focused on the fact that what makes the film so great is not the theatrics but the original Scripture that inspired it. “The performances are powerful,” said Caviezel, “but the words are still stronger.”
The event lasted one hour, and it was live-streamed online by the university. After the live-stream concluded, the discussion continued for another half hour, during which time anyone from the audience could line up to ask the panel questions.
Groth encouraged everyone to go see the movie, and he spoke of the importance of creating a Catholic presence in Hollywood.
“We need good filmmakers to tell these amazing stories,” he said.
The audience members included not only students but also families and visitors. Attendees reacted very enthusiastically to the discussion and to the words of Caviezel, as evidenced by the multiple standing ovations he received. Throughout the evening, audience members were both inspired by Caviezel’s commentary on his faith and entertained by his impressions, particularly of Mel Gibson.
The first 500 people to enter the Fieldhouse even left with gift bags holding film merchandise.
“It was kind of surreal,” said freshman Maggie Peter after seeing Caviezel and hearing his stories. “I get to see this real actor and people making a change in the world and spreading the truth of the Gospel.”
“Paul, Apostle of Christ” premieres March 23 and will be screened in 24 countries worldwide.