Actor Explores Human Side of St. Josemaría Escrivá

Interview With Charlie Cox, Star of "There Be Dragons"

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By Jesús Colina



ROME, MAY 5, 2011 (Zenit.org).- St. Josemaría Escrivá was a man with struggles and doubts, but, says the actor who portrays him in "There Be Dragons," the Spanish saint stayed committed to his calling and accessed "an extraordinary part of himself" -- something that "we are, perhaps, all capable of doing."

Charlie Cox stars as Josemaría Escrivá in "There Be Dragons," set for release in the United States on Friday.

In this interview, Cox tells ZENIT that he "wanted the audience to see a man, a real man" -- even someone who people could relate to in their own lives.

ZENIT: Has this film made you change your mind on Opus Dei or on the Church in general?

Cox: I really didn’t have preconceived notions about Josemaría Escrivá or Opus Dei before starting the project. I think this was probably helpful for me. I hadn’t read Dan Brown’s "The DaVinci Code" either (laughing).

I am aware that my experience on making this film and researching Josemaría and Opus Dei was relatively one-sided, because of the people I was surrounded with and the people that I met and the story that I was attempting to tell. That’s not to say that I didn’t do some reading and try to find some other points of view, which I did.

My experience with Opus Dei, from the people that I spoke with and the experiences that I had with those people, has been extraordinary. It is an extraordinary concept and the spiritual principles that underlie what Opus Dei is, is really beautiful. I think if you’re trying to live your life that way, then I think that is really amazing. I think that shows extraordinary courage and it gives me a lot of faith in humanity.

ZENIT: What message would you like people to receive from this film? And from the character you were playing?

Cox: Within the film there are lots of themes. One theme that I found most interesting was the idea of faith. These days, you meet a lot of people who don’t believe. You see a lot of people who don’t have any faith.

During my preparation for this film, I came to learn more deeply that faith is something you have to work on -- we have to do our part. You need to seek. What I was getting from the people I was talking to during this film, is that you have to go for it. You have to really go for it. You have to seek it. The idea being that in seeking God, God would show himself to you. That’s something that Josemaría very much embodies. He’s a man that is seeking -- he’s talking to God. He is trying to relate God into his life so that God would reveal himself to him.

It’s not like some big miracle happens and you suddenly believe. Rather, I believe it’s our job to do our part and attempt to invite God into our lives. In doing that, we will begin to see evidence of him. And with that evidence, you build a relationship with God, which builds your faith. I heard someone once say, “God will never do anything for you that you won’t let him do." You have to ask for it.

ZENIT: Are there aspects of Josemaría's personality that you particularly like?

Cox: It felt almost too easy playing a priest, especially when you put the costume on, the hat and the cassock. Let me explain: It’s very easy to start trying to play "pious," and losing depth of character. It can be easy just to play someone who is always loving and kind to everyone -- someone who loves everyone and who loves life, and has total acceptance and forgiveness for everything. It is easy to act like someone who is at total peace with the world and his circumstances. But that wouldn’t be real and my worry was that if I started to portray Josemaría like that, I was going to alienate people from him. I want people to identify the Josemaría in themselves and connect with him as a real person.

You don’t want to show this extraordinary man and play him in such a way where people would say, “Well he was a priest, of course he had to be pious.” That’s not it. I wanted the audience to see a man, a real man. He had human desires and needs. He had struggles and doubts. Yet over the course of his life, he stayed committed to his calling. This is what struck me about the script. There is no one isolated moment in this movie or in his life that would allow you to go, “Wow, that guy is a saint." It’s an accumulation of all of his actions and the whole of his life.

He strived to do the right thing despite the immense doubt and fear he was faced with. I hope people can see that and relate it to their own lives. My hope is that people would go away from this film seeing a man who was able to access an extraordinary part of himself, that we are, perhaps, all capable of doing.

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On ZENIT's Web page:

Elizabeth Lev reviewed the movie here: www.zenit.org/article-31846?l=english

Jesús Colina spoke with Joaquín Navarro-Valls, former Vatican spokesman and an investor in the movie, here: www.zenit.org/article-32479?l=english

On the Net:

To find a theater: www.dragonsresources.com/resources/theaters.html