An Extraordinary Experience:
Behind the Scenes of PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST with Veteran Shakespearean Actor James Faulkner
By Tom Snyder, Editor
An exclusive interview with British Actor James Faulkner, who plays the title role in PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST, which opened this weekend, was an insightful journey into the mind and heart of a veteran actor tasked with playing the major role in a movie.
In the movie, which takes place during the height of Nero’s persecution of Christians in the middle of the First Century in Ancient Rome, Paul is suffering in prison, but musters the strength to counsel the followers of Jesus the Messiah in the city to hold fast to their faith in Jesus and His promises, and to practice that faith through love.
Faulkner said he got a phone call at midnight in August about playing the role of Paul in the movie.
“My manager says, ‘What’s your availability?’” he recalled. “I said, ‘For the last five hours, I’ve been available.’”
The manager emailed him the script of the movie and asked him to read it right away. He did, thought it was fantastic, and the rest is history.
When Mr. Faulkner got to Malta to shoot the movie and met the cast and crew, he asked for a table read with the cast before shooting to get comfortable with the cast and the script and find out what kind of style the director wanted the performances to be.
“I had a most fantastic experience working on the film,” he said. “It was wonderful to work with people who were generally positive and supported you in a loving atmosphere. Also, very moved by what we were doing and, I have to say, the most extraordinary experience of my professional life.”
He added, “I’ve played a lot of supporting roles and I’ve played a lot of antagonistic roles. Here’s a role, suddenly, where the authority of the character, his belief, is so absolute, there was no room for me to interpose. . . the actor between me and the writer. I didn’t play it, it played me.”
Faulkner played Herod Agrippa in the classic 1976 BBC production of I, CLAUDIUS, has played Uncle Geoffrey in the BRIDGET JONES movies and starred in THE BANK JOB, and recently has appeared in GAME OF THRONES, DOWNTON ABBEY and DA VINCI’S DEMONS.
Faulkner discussed his experiences with the writer/director, Andrew Hyatt, and American actor Jim Caviezel, who plays Luke and has many scenes with Faulkner as Paul.
“Jim is rather a different actor to me and has not done Shakespeare. He wanted a less formal approach to the script because he thought that would make it more appetizing for his audience. Most of my understanding of Scripture is from the King James version of the Bible. I was privately educated. I went to chapel twice each day. I was a soloist in the choir. The King James version of the Bible to me is the familiar one, having worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company. But, on the other hand, Jim’s faith is a great deal stronger than mine and his experience of faith is stronger and more rounded than mine. So, I could refer to Jim if I needed help on any matter. And, I had a really supportive, understanding director.”
To that end, he noted that, in the beginning, while he was preparing for the movie, Hyatt gave him a one-page letter about his role and the movie that was “more comprehensive than anything that had been said to me ever by a director before.”
As a result, he did his best to make sure he didn’t get in the way of the director’s script, and “to let him speak through me.”
“The role of the actor is as an interpreter,” he added.
Faulkner also said he feels fortunate that, in his early training on the stage, he was always given roles that “stretched me.” That definitely helps prepare you for later roles, he said.