Mel Gibson will shoot Christ film in ancient tongues. Characters in the ''Braveheart'' director's biblical epic will speak in period languages Aramaic and Latin

By Gary Susman
Updated September 20, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Mel Gibson really wants authenticity on his next directing project, a movie about Jesus Christ called ”The Passion.” In fact, he says, it’ll be so authentic that the characters will speak the actual languages spoken by the Jews and Romans living in Palestine at the time: Aramaic and Latin. Of course, there’s not a big market in movies filmed in languages no one speaks anymore, so the project has yet to find a distributor. ”Obviously, nobody wants to touch something filmed in two dead languages,” Gibson said at a news conference Friday at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios. ”They think I’m crazy, and maybe I am. But maybe I’m a genius.”

Gibson doesn’t even want to disrupt the authenticity by adding subtitles. ”Hopefully, I’ll be able to transcend language barriers with visual storytelling,” he said. ”If I fail, I’ll put subtitles on it, though I don’t want to.”

The movie marks Gibson’s third directing project, after ”The Man Without a Face” and his Oscar-winning turn behind the camera in ”Braveheart.” It’ll be his first directing job where he doesn’t appear on screen. Playing Jesus will be ”Angel Eyes” and ”Frequency” star Jim Caviezel.

”I want to show the humanity of Christ as well as the divine aspect. It’s a rendering that for me is very realistic and as close as possible to what I perceive the truth to be,” Gibson said. He added, ”I think this is a pretty timeless and timely story to tell, involving an area where there’s turbulence now just as there was turbulence then because history repeats itself.”

The Passion of the Christ

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