Risen: the Cliff Curtis interview round-up

Risen: the Cliff Curtis interview round-up February 17, 2016


Risen opens in some theatres tomorrow night, and interviews with the cast and crew are still coming in at a fast pace. Here’s a round-up of interviews that co-star Cliff Curtis (who plays Jesus) has done — to go with the interview round-ups I have already posted for Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton and Affirm Films SVP Rich Peluso.

In earlier posts, I linked to some of Curtis’s video interviews as well as an interview in which he talked about how he got into character by washing his co-stars’ feet.

Here are the new interviews, starting with the print or text-based outlets.

The Toronto Sun notes that Curtis had worked with Risen director Kevin Reynolds before, and that this may have helped Curtis get the part in the new film:

But partly on the recommendation of director Kevin Reynolds, who worked with Curtis on the Kevin Costner-produced Rapa Nui, the actor got a miraculous email. . . .

“It was like, from Europe, through my New Zealand rep. And I’m reading, ‘This is the set-up, it’s about a Roman and he does this and that…’ And I’m waiting for it. Am I supposed to play a terrorist? What’s going on?

“‘And there’s a very significant role, and it’s Jesus.’ And I’m, like, ‘You’re joking. This is a prank.” Beyond the novelty of actually casting someone who would be questioned at the airport by Homeland Security to play the most holy Middle Easterner, Curtis points out that Jesus died in his early 30s (the actor is 47).

But everybody was very serious about the offer. And ultimately, so was he.

(Ironically, when called to play Jesus, Curtis had just finished starring in an acclaimed, reality-based New Zealand film The Black Horse, about a bipolar chess prodigy named Genesis Potini. “So I’m going from playing Genesis to playing Jesus. And funnily enough, Genesis, at the height of his mania, believed he was Jesus, come to save the world.”)

Curtis also spoke to the Toronto-based National Post:

“I had to play Jesus as a grounded, real human being and a man of the earth,” says Curtis. “I had to explore the journey, which meant I had to suffer, and then I had to understand and love.”

Curtis also spoke to News Corp Australia Network about how his experiences playing characters of many different ethnicities prepared him to play Jesus in Risen.

Next, the video interviews, some of which are shared with co-star Joseph Fiennes.

Curtis talked to ComingSoon.net about how the Resurrection “changed” Jesus:

He spoke to Latino Review (via Celebified) about how Jesus’ relative lack of dialogue in the film underscores the difference between showing love and talking about it:

And finally, he also spoke to We Got This Covered:

If I find any more interviews with Curtis, I will add them to this post.

February 18 update: Curtis spoke to a reporter from King 5 in Seattle:

And he spoke to Stephen Schaefer at the Boston Herald, as well.

February 19 update: Curtis also spoke to Screen Rant about putting his ego aside so that he could play the role, and about which other Jesus films he likes:

Other video interviews include this one with Collider.com (in which he says he’ll never be as good as Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ; he also states that The Last Temptation of Christ is the “definitive” Jesus movie) …

… and this one with Fox 4 in Kansas City …

… and this one with Zap2it:

February 20 update: Curtis also spoke to the New York Times Service

“I took that vow of silence quite seriously,” said Curtis, who purposely traveled to Malta, where the film was shot, without his family.

“I didn’t speak to my fellow actors, producers or directors. I didn’t speak to my makeup and hair people. I lived monastically in a small home and prepared plain, simple food. I went through a cleansing process to be as clean as I could be before I said my first line.”

What did he learn about himself?

“I learned that it’s good to be quiet,” he said. “Silence is a beautiful thing because it forces you to reach inside and really explore your heart and your mind.” . . .

Upon meeting the actors playing the disciples, Curtis had fully embraced his character.

“He washed their feet,” Liddell said, “and then it suddenly began to rain. It was a powerful moment.”

. . . and the East Valley Tribune:

The role held special appeal to Curtis due to his Catholic upbringing. As a child he served as an alter boy and had even thought about becoming a priest.

“In my childhood. I’d slept with a crucifix by my bed. I made a little altar. I would do the early Mass, 7 o’clock in the morning.

“When it was Easter, I’d serve twice a day, because you have Lent. So you’d do the early morning, you do the evening, and I did the whole thing,” he said.

March 16 update: Curtis also spoke to the New Zealand Herald:

When Curtis got the call about the role he was perplexed.

“I talked to Kevin and said, ‘Dude you know how old I am? Do you know my work. The roles that I played? And you want me to play Jesus? Jesus was crucified in his early 30s and I’m in my latter 40s. Before we go any further I better send you some pictures of what I look like now, so you know’.”

Still, the producers weren’t put off. They told they wanted a Jesus who not only looked like he came from a Middle Eastern country, but felt like a real man.

“Ah I can do that. I was a builder. I was a carpenter of sorts. I’m working stock. He’s like a working-class Jesus, not this guy who floats around in the clouds. I related to that possibility. I can be a working-class nobody Jesus.”

The film opens in New Zealand tomorrow — or maybe it’s already March 17 there?

March 18 update: Curtis has a few soundbites in a video at STV News.

March 24 update: Curtis spoke to the New Zealand outlet Woman’s Day:

Cliff describes his crucifixion scene as “painful and very uncomfortable”, and confesses he needed to meditate in order to cope with it. But the pain was all worth it. Speaking of his role, Cliff concludes, “Creatively and artistically, it was perhaps the most beautiful thing I have experienced as an actor, and the most significant thing I’ve done so far as an artist. I believe something has shifted in me at a deep level.”

April 2 update: Curtis spoke to En Stars about being recognized for his roles:

“Some people call me ‘Smiley,’” says Curtis, which was his scene-stealing gangster character in Training Day. “Other people call me ‘Pablo Escobar,’” the infamous drug lord he played in Blow. “I had my first person call me ‘Jesus’ the other day.” He depicts the son of God in the recently released Risen. “I was just in the hotel and there was a whole family and they stopped and one of them is like ‘Are you Jesus?,” he says with a laugh. “It was hilarious.”

April 8 update: Curtis spoke to LA Weekly while promoting Dark Horse:

But you got to play Jesus in Risen, which is close. Especially in an ostensibly “faith-based” film, to see a 47-year-old Maori actor get cast as Jesus. That felt downright revolutionary when you appeared onscreen.

It really did feel that way for me, too. It was revolutionary for me to not be asked to bring all this rage and darkness to a role. It’s been a running joke of mine: Many people have asked me over the years what I’ve wanted to do as a role, and I’d always say, “Jesus.” I never thought it would actually happen. So when it came, especially in my late 40s, I thought they’d made a mistake. Which does happen in this business; sometimes they’ll call the wrong actor. It happened to me — I think they’re talking to me about one role and they’re actually talking to me about another.

So I had to double and triple check that they knew my background, knew my age. I wanted to make sure before I went down the garden path with this offer. Yeah, it was a revelation of sorts. Especially after playing Genesis. Genesis happened to be a devout Christian. I feel like maybe it was this little gift that he gave me. Because both Genesis and Jesus for me represent love and hope and peace and a desire to uplift the human spirit and build connections between humans. Those two parts, for me as an actor, were a blessing, after years of having to play the nemesis role.

Curtis also told The Wall Street Journal, “He’s a happy guy, my Jesus.”

May 30 update: Curtis spoke to The Catholic Book Blogger:

CLIFF CURTIS: Well we started with the Crucifixion scene and I had just played a role where I was up close to 300 pounds so I stripped back as much as I could Physically I was training twice a day so I could get as lean as possible. I really didn’t get down to what I wanted but coming from where I was at, at 290 pounds I was close. Trust me it was grueling. I actually passed out at one time. It was pretty scary. I wasn’t messing around, it was no joke, I was serious. Also I went into silence, I read Scriptures and I meditated for hours and hours and hours every day to get as pure to the role as I could.

June 4 update: Curtis spoke to Stuff in connection with the DVD release:

Risen was filmed in Malta and you spent hours up on the cross in the beating heat. Were those the most uncomfortable on-set conditions you’ve experienced?

I was having so much fun. I was on a high. I liked the silence, I went on this whole cleansing thing and I lost a lot of weight so I could go up on the cross. I didn’t mind the heat or the dust or the rocks or anything.

I did a movie years ago on Easter Island (Rapa Nui) with very similar conditions over five months; that was really tough. I did a strange movie, 10,000 BC, down south and it was freezing cold and we had no clothes and we were running around killing woolly mammoths. I really enjoy the challenge of it. It’s like extreme sports really, extreme movie-making conditions. They make me happy.

June 4, 2017 update: Curtis spoke to Patheos blogger DeWayne Hamby:

Your Jesus was very different, not somber, but warm and inviting, and smiling. Was this your own interpretation?

Yes, that was pretty much my interpretation. I took a practical approach in that He had been through a huge experience of suffering on the physical body and the fear that we all live through day by day, the garden, the betrayal. I figured to be released from the pain and the suffering, to be free of that would be a really beautiful feeling. He would feel elated and in love with life. I think my interpretation is that this is the hope that He wants to bring to the world. It’s a happy feeling, it’s a warm feeling, that there isn’t anything to be afraid of, that there is life beyond our fear. There was something very beautiful and human about that.

If I find any more interviews with Curtis, I will add them to this post.

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