Within a few moments of interviewing Jim Caviezel, it’s apparent immediately how much the actor loves talking about film. Not just acting or his eclectic resume or any role in particular – but other facets of the process: lighting, directing, cinematography… Caviezel has made a career of playing quiet and introspective characters; but in person he is naturally gregarious and prone to go off any number of tangents – be it his affinity for directing or his relationship with WWII POW Louis Zamperini. Perhaps it’s that naturally convivial nature that imbues his subtle roles with unforeseen depth. In When the Game Stands Tall, Caviezel plays to type as the introverted Bob Ladouceur – the coach who led the De La Salle Spartans on the longest winning streak in high-school football. It’s another quietly powerful performance for Caviezel, much of the film’s success dependent on his ability to convey a multitude of emotions with nary a word. Caviezel, as always, is more than up for the challenge.
In the following interview with the actor, he talks about the difficulties of portraying a living person, his passion for directing, what films he would like to make himself one day and why he’ll probably never direct an episode of his TV series Person Of Interest. For the full interview, hit the jump.
Jim Caviezel: I actually just talked to Coach Ladouceur before I came over here — and I said ‘Oh man — here we go again’. I don’t know if you guys know — but we get nervous doing these interviews…
Did you give Bob any advice on how to handle a film interview?
Caviezel: Is he here?
Yeah — I actually have an interview with him after this.
Caviezel: You’ll see this is probably the hardest thing for him. He hates this, not because he hates you — but it’s never been about him.
I agree — the entire movie is about avoiding the limelight.
Caviezel: Exactly — here’s a guy: Ladouceur on his level could be making no less than seven to ten million a season [if he had so chosen]. He’s that level of coach… I asked [Ladouceur before coming here] “winning – why don’t you put an emphasis on it?’ He said ‘Jim — winning is the result of everything we do.”
I know you work on a TV show – Person Of Interest. Given the demanding schedule, what was it about When the Game Stands Tall that made you want to spend your hiatus filming this movie?
Caviezel: I was a basketball player. I’m a gym rat. I’m always in the gym playing. I’m also a film rat. I love being in front of a camera. I love being behind a camera. I love talking to the director. I love talking film. I want to know how they’re going to set this shot up. Why are you going to put your camera here? What lens are you going to use? I’m into that so I’m always looking for a really good film. Now this year – I didn’t shoot anything because there wasn’t anything that I felt was going to be strong enough. After you do Person of Interest, are you looking to have a rest? Yes of course; but I couldn’t turn this one down.
What type of films do you tend to look for?
Caviezel: The story has to have a redeemable quality to it – which is truth. For me Ladouceur doesn’t coach for money. They don’t pay these guys that much. If he wanted to, he could’ve been paid big time and earned it. He just wanted to help these kids who are on their way. He has that [redeemable quality] in him. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be playing the devil in another movie.
Caviezel: Yes – the psychological [component]. In the Denzel Washington picture I did with him [Déjà Vu], I basically play the ‘Unabomber’. I do a lot of study on psychology and what makes a guy tick this way or that. Usually people who are evil don’t see themselves as evil. So it was interesting to portray that. But the story as a whole was absolutely redeemable in [Déjà Vu]. I just didn’t get to be that character… I look for a redeemable story but that doesn’t mean I’ll be a redeemable character in the film.
As someone who obviously has such an affinity towards filmmaking, do you ever think of stepping behind the camera yourself?
Caviezel: Of course.
What type of projects would you like to direct?
Caviezel: [When the Game Stands Tall] would have been something like that. But this is a two-year project which means you can’t do anything else. Listen if there’s something that blows my mind – like I knew Louie Zamperini. I knew him personally. I know Jon Voight’s daughter directed the upcoming movie but that would have been something [I would’ve liked to direct]. I knew him early on. Him and [UCLA Basketball] Coach John Wooden were two big influences on my life down here in Hollywood. Zamperini – I would visit him in his office when I had nothing going on. He would just sit there and talk to me. Years later Coach Wooden, who coached my dad at UCLA, I’d have him at my house and we would just talk about basketball. I really enjoy talking to actors or filmmakers that enjoy that process of creating and how they go about doing it.
Caviezel: No – because it takes so much out of me. I’ve watched directors that have come in and been like ‘Oh wait — I’m in up over my head.’ I need a little bit more time to put the right cameras where I want them. I need time – and we don’t have that. I don’t want the show to hurt. The hardest part is getting “inside” that’s where I would really do well. I know what I want it to look like. But in the other way – we would have to do [the shot] again if didn’t look right [to me] and the clock is always ticking…
When you’re playing a character that is living how does that differ from playing someone who is fictitious?
Caviezel: People know Ladouceur — and the hardest thing about that is the foundation is already laid out. But at the same time I don’t want to play an imitation of the guy either. It’s a fine line. It’s more difficult because there is a foundation outside of the script.
How many times did you meet Bob before filming?
Caviezel: I met him once before shooting and during shooting I met him again. After that we became good friends.
Did that influence your performance – meeting him those two times?
Caviezel: Yes – [I was there for] his last game. His 399th win. During the halftime of the game, they let me go in and be around the coaches and film them. I got to be around Ladouceur. He would check on his guys but he didn’t say much. He’d just let them do their jobs. There wasn’t any ‘Hoo-hah’ kind of stuff. He was very clear and concise. His philosophy really stems from his absolute authenticity. Those kids see right through you and they’ll call bullshit on you in a second. He’s very economical in what he says. He won’t gossip. He’s not that guy.
How did your background in sports help you prepare for the role? (Caviezel played college basketball before turning his attention towards theater & acting)
Caviezel: [I remember] going to the state tournament. We had to play the number one team in the state of Washington and it looked like it was over. We weren’t going to win this one… Initially I was filled with fear but by the fourth quarter I was filled with desire and love for my teammates. I was in the zone. I played out of my mind and we [the team] came together and beat them. That’s a personal experience and it’s one of those things where I’m able to take something from a personal experience and say I’ve been through this from the player perspective. I understand them. Often times the best military leaders were soldiers [beforehand].
When the Game Stands Tall opens Friday.