CC.com: What attracted you to this role?
Dolph: I like the subject matter and think it is a very interesting story. It’s about a Roman tribune sent out to Palestine to investigate the resurrection of some mysterious guy 2000 years ago.
The emperor is dying, and he wants to find out if there is any truth to eternal life, so he sends out this guy to investigate. The investigator takes a practical look at it, and I have an interesting role as kind of his sidekick/bodyguard to this Roman fellow.
I didn’t have to direct or play the lead, so it seemed to be a pretty easy role for me.
CC.com: Where did the filming take place?
Dolph: Mostly in Tunisia, and partly in Bulgaria and Rome. The Romans defeated the “barbarians” in Bulgaria, so the film begins there. Then we moved to Tunisia for the majority of the filming.
CC.com: What was your experience filming in those countries?
Dolph: It’s a little more primitive than filming, say, in the States. They haven’t done as many movies there, so things aren’t set up as well. And the crews mean well, but they’re not very organized.
On the other hand, it’s exotic and adventurous to film in locations like that. You meet different people and it makes it more interesting.
While in Tunisia, we filmed some in the Sahara Desert, which was really unusual. It’s a little like the ocean; it never ends, it’s so big. You get a really interesting feeling being in the middle of that.
CC.com: Did you do any special preparation or training for your role?
Dolph: There was some physical preparation; I had some special weapons I had to use. One was a really large axe. But I do a lot of action movies, so that’s not a big stretch for me.
The difference was more in the look of the character. He has long hair, so I wore a wig, and they gave me a beard to have a special “barbarian” look. That was different, and I spent 2-3 hours in the makeup chair every morning.
The character was really a simple one. He has simple needs and a simple way of life. But he also has his own religion.
This show is really about the birth of a religion. The Romans had their religion and their gods – Mars, Apollo, and so forth – but the main character and mine both experience this new religion. So some of my preparation was thinking about that.
CC.com: When you do a role like this and your character undergoes this type of transformation? Do you find yourself thinking differently about this historical event now?
Dolph: It’s not so much that it affects you while you’re filming, because most actors draw a bridge between themselves and the character they’re portraying. It can affect you a little bit immediately after shooting, if you find yourself still using your accent or something like that.
But more so, I find myself understanding a little more the events around that time. I see that there were other religions around before this one started, but that this was a turning point, a special time.
CC.com: After filming that story and in that location, do you find yourself with any more insight into what’s happening in the Middle East now?
Dolph: Well, in the story, the people are being very brutal to each other because of religious differences, and won’t accept other beliefs in a different god. More people have been killed in the name of religion than anything else, and that’s still happening.
The Romans were very brutal with the Christians. You see that in the film, and it does remind you of what’s going on today.
CC.com: In the process of filming and role preparation, was there a particular event or moment that really surprised you?
Dolph: There are always surprises on a film shoot; it’s nothing but surprises.
The time we spent filming is the most I’ve ever spent in a Muslim country. Tunisia is a modern country, but they hold strongly to the Muslim traditions. They answered the call to prayer 6 – 7 times per day. For most folks, it’s hard to make it to church once a week, so seeing someone pray 7 times a day, you realize what kind of commitment that is. It was interesting to see that up close.
We spent some time in Italy. What’s so cool in Rome is to stand in a square and be near a building that was built by Emperor Nero and even earlier ones.
CC.com: You’ve talked about faith a lot. Can you share a little about your own personal faith? Are you a believer in Jesus Christ?
Dolph: Yes, I am. I’m Swedish, and I went to the Lutheran Church when I was younger. I’m very interested in history, and the historic part of who Jesus was. That’s where my main interest lies. I enjoyed the shoot, especially the time in Rome and in those ancient locations. It puts my own life and our times in a great perspective.
CC.com: In the film, you’re part of an investigation into eternal life. What conclusions have you drawn yourself about that?
Dolph: I believe there definitely is something more to this existence than what meets the eye. When a person dies, which is what Tiberius is worried about, what happens to the spirit?
One second a person is alive, one second they’re not. Definitely it’s the same flesh, the same appearance, but something has left. That energy or spirit has to go some place, it must live on in some other way or form. I don’t know exactly how that happens, but I guess we’ll find out one day. Our lives and our actions definitely affect that.
CC.com: You’ve had a number of roles in filmmaking: acting, directing, writing, producing. Which of those do you find yourself drawn to the most?
Dolph: I’ve directed a couple of movies and I’m really getting a taste for it. Directing really appeals to me because you have command of the whole process and are really the storyteller trying to affect the audience. If you can affect the audience, it gives you a certain satisfaction as a filmmaker.
You can affect audiences as an actor, but in a different way, not necessarily the whole performance. So I love the directing and the acting, but now I’m starting to like the writing better. You know, the better the script is, the better the movie is.
CC.com: Any final thoughts about the film?
Dolph: It’s definitely an interesting movie. It’s a period piece, and the beginning of one of the major religions in the world.