Because of their experiences during film production, many of the cast and filming crew converted to Catholicism after the completion of the film. Among those who converted was an atheist who played Judas Iscariot.
When this Latin and Aramaic language film was announced, Mel Gibson stated that his intent was to release it without subtitles, letting the performances speak for themselves. However, subtitles were added later. Also, he stated that regardless of the cost of the project, that this would be "good for the soul".
During production the film was originally supposed to be titled simply "The Passion". However in October 2003, it was revealed the Miramax studios already had a movie in production with that title. Mel Gibson retitled the film "The Passion of Christ". He retitled it yet again a month later in November 2003 to "The Passion of the Christ".
The Bible verse from Isaiah 53:5 which appeared in the beginning of the film ("He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; by His wounds we are healed") is abbreviated. Here is the full verse for those who are not familiar with the Bible: "But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed." (ESV).
According to Caleb Deschanel, the majority of the movie was shot with a speed above the normal 24 frames per second. This created a sense of relative 'slow motion' in most scenes, which gave the performances and events more weight and drama.
According to Mel Gibson, the long shot of Jesus lying in Mary's arms after having been taken from the cross, was greatly inspired by Michelangelo's famous statue "La Pietà", a work of art that inspired many other depictions of this scene.
The name of the Roman soldier who pierced Christ with a spear is Cassius, as we heard Abenader shouted his name when giving him a spear. This is a reference to the Catholic tradition that the name of the soldier who pierced Christ's side was Cassius Longinus, who was later believed to convert to Christianity and is venerated in Roman Catholicism as a saint.
Just like we see in the film, Jews did not speak Greek in first century Israel. This is confirmed by Jewish Historian Josephus. Jewish Historian Josephus wrote: "I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations, and so adorn their discourses with the smoothness of their periods; because they look upon this sort of accomplishment as common, not only to all sorts of free-men, but to as many of the servants as please to learn them. But they give him the testimony of being a wise man who is fully acquainted with our laws, and is able to interpret their meaning; on which account, as there have been many who have done their endeavors with great patience to obtain this learning, there have yet hardly been so many as two or three that have succeeded therein, who were immediately well rewarded for their pains." - Antiquities of Jews XX, XI. In Jewish Wars (Book 1, Preface, Paragraph 1), Josephus states this - "I have proposed to myself, for the sake of such as live under the government of the Romans, to translate those books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country, and sent to the Upper Barbarians. Joseph, the son of Matthias, by birth a Hebrew, a priest also, and one who at first fought against the Romans myself, and was forced to be present at what was done afterwards, [am the author of this work]." In Antiquities of Jews Book 3, Josephus points out that Hebrews called Pentecost "Asartha." Asartha is Aramaic, because Aramaic places Aramaic definite article "tha" at the end of a feminine noun in an emphatic state. If "Asartha" is translated into Hebrew, then it will become "Ha Atzeret." Unlike Aramaic, Hebrew places the definite article ("Ha") at the beginning of a word.
The line mentioned by Jesus to High Priest Caiaphas and others in this film - "I AM and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven." comes from Mark 14:62. This is also a reference to Jeremiah 4:13 where it says "Behold, he (God) shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled." This is interesting to note, because Elijah was taken by a chariot of fire in 2 Kings 2:11-12 and Elijah being taken by a chariot is also mentioned by Annas the priest in this film. Right before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (which was prophesied by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21), chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. This incident was recorded by Josephus in Jewish Wars (Book Six), Tacitus in Histories (Book 5), Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (Book 3), and Jewish History Document "Sepher Yosippon" (Chapter 87 - Burning of the temple) written in Hebrew. God and his chariots are also mentioned in Isaiah 66:15, 2 Kings 6:17, Zachariah 6:1-6, and other verses in the bible.
During the scourging scene, Jim Caviezel accidentally got whipped twice. The first time knocked the wind out of him, and the second time hurt so much it caused him wrench his hand quickly from his shackles, scraping his wrist badly. The remainder of the scourging scenes were finished by using visual effects: the actors playing Roman soldiers held sticks without the leather tails, and acted out the whipping motion, while Caviezel would react as if hit. The tails were later digitally composited into the shots. Make-up wounds on Caviezel's body were digitally covered until the actual hit by the whip, creating the illusion that they suddenly appeared.
In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Jim Caviezel spoke about a few of the difficulties he experienced while filming. This included being accidentally whipped twice, which has left a 14-inch scar on his back. Caviezel also admitted he was struck by lightning while filming the Sermon on the Mount and during the crucifixion, experienced hypothermia during the dead of winter in Italy.
The figure of Christ during the crucifixion is actually Jim Caviezel in many scenes. The movie's make-up effects creator/producer Keith VanderLaan also forged an articulated, rubber stand-in for Caviezel that even made breathing motions, who could be suspended on the cross for certain wide shots to allow the actor some physical relief, and for some dangerous shots (such as the turning of the cross).
According to Mel Gibson, Maia Morgenstern, who played Mary, was pregnant during the shoot. She didn't tell anyone, until one day she approached Jim Caviezel (Jesus) and said in broken English and a thick Romanian accent, "I have baby. In stomach."
On the first day of general release, Ash Wednesday, Peggy Scott, a 56-year-old advertising sales manager from Wichita, Kansas collapsed of apparent heart failure while watching the crucifixion scene. She later died at the hospital.
Foreseeing damage to box office, its release in Mexico had to be moved one week earlier (from March 25 to March 19) because pirate copies were already available a few days after it premiered in the USA.
There are several specifically Catholic influences in the film, such as the prominent role of Jesus' mother Mary; the Stations of the Cross; the floating cross on which Jesus was crucified; and the depiction of Satan.
While the characters of the film mostly speak Latin and Aramaic, there are instances where Hebrew was spoken: a) The gathering of the Sanhedrin (Jewish chief Rabbis); b) Simon of Cyrene speaking; and c) The woman who gave water to Jesus to his way to Golgotha.
It would usually take over 10 hours to put Jim Caviezel into the scourged makeup. On some of those days, it would happen that the weather conditions turned out to be unsuitable for filming. To avoid spending more hours to have it removed and re-applied the next day, he kept it on and went to bed in full make-up.
A new type of fake blood with added viscosity was developed for Jesus' scourging makeup, which contained red dyes suspended in glycerin, fatty gums and a stabilizing base. It also made Jim Caviezel's skin smell very sweet for numerous days, and have to be rubbed with alcohol.
Originally, the second confrontation between Pilate and the Sanhedrin included a line where the Sanhedrin say, "His blood be on our heads and on the heads of our children!" Although this line comes from the Gospels, Mel Gibson removed the subtitle of the line to avoid further allegations of the movie having an anti-Semitic message. The actual line in Aramaic was left in the movie.
At actual Roman crucifixions, the nails were driven through the wrists and not through the palms as in the film. The structure of the hand is not strong enough to support the weight of the body and the nail would have torn through between the fingers. However, the Christian tradition shows the nails as driven through the palms. In the Bible, the nails were said to be driven into the hands of Jesus. Medically, the hands include the wrists. - Edit: Recent study of ancient crucifixions have revealed that it is likely that the nails were in fact driven through the hands as opposed to the wrists. The hands have a nerve running through the middle of them that would have caused unbelievable amounts of pain when the nail was driven through. To support the body's weight, ropes were tied at the wrists and the elbows to tie them to the crossbeam, then the legs were broken causing the weight of their body to pull on the upper body, eventually resulting in death by slow suffocation.
Was voted the most pro-Catholic film of all time by readers of Faith & Family magazine and the National Catholic Register newspaper. It received more votes from readers than the next three films on the list combined: The Sound of Music (1965), A Man for All Seasons (1966), and The Song of Bernadette (1943).
Rumors circulated that James Horner was interested in composing the music for this film. Later on, female composers such as Lisa Gerrard and Rachel Portman were in talks, and Portman did indeed have the job until her pregnancy caused her to bow out gracefully. John Debney took the job in the end.
Aramaic was the most used language spoken by the Jews in this film. Aramaic was the language of the Jews in Israel during first century AD. "Bar"tholomew, "Bar"abbas, "Bar"nabbas, "Bar" Jesus, Simon "Bar" Jonas, "Bar"sabbas, and "Bar"timaeus are examples of names in the New Testament which use the Aramaic word Bar meaning 'Son' rather than Ben in Hebrew. When Jews say "Hebrew" in New Testament, they were referring to their Hebrew tongue which was Aramaic in first century AD. "Golgotha" in John 19:17 is a Greek transliteration of an Aramaic word. In Hebrew, Golgotha will become 'Ha Gulgoleth'.
Contrary to this film, Western Christian Traditions believe that Jesus spoke Greek and New Testament was written in Greek. So Western Christianity uses Greek NT manuscripts. But Several Eastern Christian Traditions (in Middle East regions and in South India) believe that Jesus spoke Aramaic and New Testament is written in Aramaic. Not in Greek. So Several Eastern Christian Traditions support the use of Aramaic language in this film and consider Aramaic NT (known as Aramaic Peshitta) as the original text of New Testament.
In this film, Jesus Christ (Yeshua Meshikha in Aramaic) calls Peter "Kaypha" which means stone in Aramaic. The name "Peter" comes from Greek name "petros" which is the translation of Aramaic word "Kaypha." In New Testament English Bible, Kaypha is written as Cephas in John 1:42, Galatians 2:9, 1 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Corinthians 9:5, and other verses in the Bible.
A year after the film's initial release, a "toned-down" version retitled as "The Passion Recut" was released. Though some of the more graphic elements were removed, the MPAA still assigned the movie an "R" rating - so the version was distributed to theaters as "unrated".
Gibson's hands nail Christ to the cross during the Crucifixion scene. Gibson said "It was me that put him on the cross. It was my sins" that put him there. According to special edition commentaries, Gibson also supplied the foot of Jesus (washed by Mary Magdalene) and the arms that tie Judas' suicide rope. His crying, screaming voice is heard during the latter scene.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Just like in this film, Aramaic was the spoken language of first century Israel. In first century AD, Hebrew wasn't used as a spoken language at all among Jews although Hebrew word "adonai" and some Hebrew words are mentioned in this film. In Acts 1:19, it says "And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood." "Akel dama" is Greek transliteration of Aramaic words "Khqel Dama." "Field of Blood" was called "Khqel Dama" by all the inhabitants of Jerusalem in their "own" language which was Aramaic in first century Israel. If Aramaic words "Khqel Dama" are translated into Hebrew, then "Khqel Dama" will become "Shadeh Hadam." If Hebrew was used as a spoken language in first century Israel, then "Shadeh Hadam" would have been mentioned along with "Khqel Dama" (akel dama in Greek NT and English NT) in Acts 1:19. So through this verse (Acts 1:19), it is confirmed that all the inhabitants of Jerusalem spoke in their "own" language in first century Israel which was Aramaic.