With his soulful, deep-set blue eyes and a dark, eerily beautiful countenance, Jim Caviezel has inspired more than a few comparisons to Montgomery Clift. Thus, it was somewhat fitting -- and more than a little ironic -- that Caviezel first broke through to the American public as The Thin Red Line's Private Witt, a character loosely based on Clift's Private Prewitt in From Here to Eternity.
A native of Washington state, Caviezel was born in Mount Vernon in 1968, one of five children in a devout Catholic family. A gifted athlete as a young man, he performed brilliantly on the basketball court and dreamt of joining the NBA. He attended Seattle's O'Dea High School, and later Burien Kennedy High, attending Bellevue Community College after graduation (where he continued to play ball), but a foot injury forced him to withdraw from the team and try acting instead. He debuted cinematically with a bit part as an airline clerk in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991), Caviezel landed an equally minor role in Michael Ritchie's disappointing boxing yarn, Diggstown (1992). Accepted at Juilliard that same year, he declined the school's offer in favor of a supporting role in Lawrence Kasdan's 1994 Wyatt Earp. Unfortunately, this film (like Diggstown) flopped, and for the next several years, Caviezel bounced back-and-forth, between minor roles in big budget Hollywood films like The Rock (1996) and G.I. Jane (1997) and more substantial roles in turkeys such as Bill Couturie's Ed (1996). Fortunately, in 1998, the long-dormant Terrence Malick came calling with a role in his war opus The Thin Red Line (adapted from James Jones's Guadalcanal Diary) and Caviezel struck gold. The film received a number of Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and its stellar ensemble cast, which included Ben Chaplin, Sean Penn, George Clooney, and Nick Nolte, earned almost unanimous acclaim.