Jim Caviezel, star in the making
By Alesia Stanford
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Jim Caviezel may have finally found the role to make him a true old-fashioned Hollywood star. He's riding, fighting and plotting his way to the top as the title character in "The Count of Monte Cristo."
It's not that Caviezel doesn't have the looks to be a major player. He's about 6-foot-2, with dark eyes and a dazzling smile. Still, he's got a quiet nature, something that may keep him at arm's length from fame and the hype that goes with it.
After several minor roles in films such as "Wyatt Earp" and "The Rock," Caviezel, 32, earned his first head-lining role in Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line" (1998), playing Private Witt. He went on to co-star with Dennis Quaid in "Frequency" (2000), playing a cop who is able to contact his father 30 years in the past, and he created romantic sparks with Jennifer Lopez in last year's romantic drama "Angel Eyes," playing a mysterious do-gooder trying to forget his past.
His next film is "High Crimes," opposite Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.
Cutting their own swaths
In "Monte Cristo," Caviezel takes Edmond Dantes, the hero of the famous Dumas story, from a naive young sailor in post-revolutionary France to a dashing, revenge-minded "Count" who takes Paris society by storm. In between, he's a grieving prisoner betrayed by his best friend and bereft of the woman he loves, passing time in a dank jail.
Caviezel got to put some of his athletic background -- he was a basketball player in college -- to good use in the film's swashbuckling scenes.
He says he and co-star Guy Pearce decided to do it do their fencing scenes themselves, without the help of stunt men -- despite their lack of swordplay experience. "I said, 'Guy, it would be great if we could get really good and fast and get this down,' " Caviezel says. " 'I think a lot of peple would be impressed if you and I did this and not a bunch of other guys.' "
The hard work paid off. Caviezel learned to fence, to parry using both both hands and to fight with a knife. "By the time I was done, I probably went through five different trainers. The thing we always had to keep in mind was safety, safety, safety," he recalls.
'I look at this as a service'
Not to mention modesty. Caviezel doesn't like to show too much skin during love scenes. He's married and doesn't think a lot of on-screen antics are fair to his wife, Kerri, whom he met on a blind date.
The star maintains a humble outlook, expressing gratitude to his co-stars and directors for their influence in his life. He also credits his faith for his good fortune.
"It's as simple as that," he says. "You know, I'm going to get old and I know ... I'm going to die someday and this is my job. ... I look at this as a service. I enjoy that."
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