Was God trying to tell Mel Gibson something? During production of his controversial film ''The Passion of Christ,'' the actor he cast as Jesus was struck by lightning, Variety reports. Not only was Jim Caviezel hit, but assistant director Jan Michelini was struck twice.
In one instance, Caviezel and Michelini were together under the latter's umbrella when they were zapped. ''I'm about a hundred feet away from them, when I glance over and see lightning coming out of Caviezel's ears. Both Caviezel and Michelini got struck," producer Steve McEveety said. ''The main bolt hit Caviezel and one of its forks hit Michelini's umbrella.'' Months earlier, Michelini had also been hit while carrying an umbrella, Variety reports. Neither man was hurt in the incidents.
Directed and financed by Gibson, ''Passion'' has stirred controversy for months. Christian leaders and conservative pundits who've attended invitation-only screenings have called the movie a masterpiece and praised its fidelity to the Gospels, while such Jewish organizations as the Anti-Defamation League have expressed fears that the movie blames the Jews for Christ's execution and will spark anti-Semitic violence. Gibson has had difficulty finding a U.S. distributor, but on Thursday, he confirmed what had been rumored for a week: that the film would be released in America on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 25) by indie studio Newmarket. The terms of the deal grant limited rights to Newmarket, the distributor behind such indie successes as ''Memento'' and ''Whale Rider,'' to handle the booking and promotion of ''Passion'' in return for a percentage of the gross. Newmarket partner and co-founder William Tyrer told the New York Times his company was ''uniquely qualified to carefully handle'' the movie's marketing challenges, adding: ''We wouldn't be supporting it if it was anti-Semitic.''