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Jim Caviezel is a man of the old-school mold. Not a dude, or a skinny jeans-wearing hipster or a floppy mopped, I-don’t-wash-my-hair heartthrob, but the kind of guy who rides motorcycles (he owns a Harley and a Kawasaki), likes fast cars (current favorite is a black Lamborghini) and requests Frank Sinatra be played at a photo shoot. Not to mention that at a muscular 6 feet, 2 inches, with cheekbones that could cut diamonds and a piercing blue stare, the actor practically screams, “Don’t mess with me.”
“You’re scaring me, man,” jokes the photographer as Caviezel fixes him with an unwavering scowl.
Fortunately, Caviezel is also a huge ham. Throughout a four-hour shoot, he dances and warbles along to “The Way You Look Tonight,” practices his Spanish with the Barcelona-born photographer and coos over the clothes rack (“I was immediately drawn to this,” he says, making a beeline for a Dolce & Gabbana gray sweater and Tom Ford plaid scarf).
By the time he sits down to chat about his latest project, AMC’s television miniseries, “The Prisoner,” which premieres Sunday, he’s in full-on ramble mode.
“You’ll have to forgive me. Now I know where I’ve gotten in the habit of talking too much — I’m the one doing all the talking. You’re asking me the questions, and I’m not asking you any questions,” he says, before throwing out a few of his own.
“Let’s do the interview,” interjects his guard dog publicist.
“It is part of the interview,” he says.
“Not really,” she snaps back.
“Come on,” he says, before relenting, “OK.”
Much like his character, named Six, in “The Prisoner,” Caviezel often finds himself at odds with the strictures of his world. A remake of the 1967 cult television series of the same name, “The Prisoner” centers on Six, who wakes stranded in a desert with memories of a past life, but finds he’s trapped in a creepily idyllic locale called the Village. Overseen by the dictatorial Two (Sir Ian McKellen), it is a whitewashed version of reality in which everyone lives in identical homes, eats the same food and never questions what might lie outside their borders. Equal parts sci-fi thriller and existential meditation, the updated version explores themes of surveillance and government control.
“Whatever he does — his conscious or subconscious — that is all that he’s got. It’s the only truth he knows, and he’s going to hang onto it with everything in his mind,” explains Caviezel of the psychologically tricky part, whose Namibia and Cape Town-shoot also proved physically taxing. “I remember going to the set and you’re so mentally exhausted. Sometimes to get myself ramped up, I would take a chair and ram it into my head, going, ‘Wake up now!’”
It was a level of commitment that certainly impressed his veteran co-star.
“Jim, more than most actors, knows how to behave in front of the camera,” says McKellen, whose Two has many a head-to-head battle with Six. “I was watching that really with awe, rather than thinking, ‘Are there any notes I can give him?’”