“There’s redemption. Even for me.”
That’s James Faulkner’s takeaway from the upcoming movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” starring Faulkner ("Game of Thrones," "Downton Abbey") as Paul and Jim Caviezel ("The Passion of the Christ," "Person of Interest") as Luke.
The movie focuses on the final 10 days of Paul’s life, when he is in the Mamertine Prison in Rome awaiting his execution under sentence of death by the emperor Nero.
"Paul" is intended to be based on only biblical sources, which Faulkner dove into during the rather quick turnaround period he had between joining the film and the beginning of shooting.
“To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of time for contemporary research,” Faulkner said. “So naturally, I read his letters, those being the best form of research to give some indication of what he’s writing one-on-one to his correspondents.”
While it’s a historical portrait of early Christianity and the persecution Christians faced in Rome, it also offers an in-depth look at Paul’s psyche in his last days, as he deals with regret from his past transgressions and battles worry that he’s failed in his mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations.
“You get to meet a man haunted by his past, although he’s undergone, as a younger man, the Damascene conversion, he’s in solitary confinement,” Faulkner said. “Possibly he’s failed to take the teachings of Jesus Christ to the wider world, and he’s haunted by the souls of those he persecuted when he was effectively an enforcer for the Jewish faith.”
That’s where Luke comes in. Played by Caviezel, who is best known for his role as Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ," Luke visits Paul in prison to put the apostle's story and teaching in writing for distribution to Christians in Rome and abroad. Those writings would become the book of Acts in the Bible.
“Luke brings him news of how Christians are faring in the outside world, and the persecution that they suffer,” Faulkner said. “It was a particularly harsh time for Christians in Rome under Nero, when Christians are burned alive and thrown to the lions.
“There are those that waver and those that doubt, and those that seek revenge upon their masters, and Paul is finding that deeply frustrating that he cannot reinforce their faith from inside his cell,” Faulkner continued.
Faulkner said the role was an impactful experience for him, as someone who was raised in the Church of England, but describes himself as a “lightly practicing” Christian.
“He was an extraordinarily tough man,” Faulkner said of Paul. “And a much more vulnerable man than I had been aware of, because I hadn’t looked at Paul with an adult eye. I’m at a similar age to Paul when he was executed. I’ve gone on my own particular journey; we all do. You can understand a great deal more why he would have been haunted by his past life and regrets.”
Faulkner said he believes the movie has a message for Christians and non-Christians, as well as to contemporary society.
“I would hope Christians would be uplifted by the film, and have their faith reinforced,” Faulkner said. “I would hope those who are not living Christian lives would reflect on their life and whether they can make it better, and whether there is benefit for being kinder and more inclusive to their fellow man.
“I think the world would be a better place if we remembered to love one another better, and that you can forgive one another for the sins they perpetrate on you,” Faulkner continued. “[The movie] is not about the suffering, not about the Passion, but about the quiet and incontrovertible love that the religion displays, and its inclusiveness. That’s the important thing.”
"Paul, Apostle of Christ" will be released in theaters March 23.