This actor took to Hollywood the skills he honed on the hardwood, and turned a struggling basketball career into a big-screen success.
Name: Jim Caviezel
Body of Work: The Passion of the Christ, The Count of Monte Cristo, Pay It Forward, Person of Interest, The Thin Red Line
“Basketball is how I got into the industry,” says Jim Caviezel, John Reese on the CBS drama Person of Interest. “I’d come down [to Hollywood] and do five camps every summer.” Eventually he was able to get some smaller roles because others didn’t have his background in the sport. The actor’s talent on the hardwood isn’t surprising—his father played at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden, and his brother went All-American in high school. In fact, Caviezel was able to play with some of the biggest names in basketball when he was training in his younger days. “I got to play against Gary Payton and John Stockton,” he says. “Playing against and watching those guys, understanding what it took for them to get to that point—it kept me from things that would’ve affected my performance.”
While skill may have helped him get his foot in the door, Hollywood very nearly tossed him right back out. “We used to do a lot of plyometrics,” says Caviezel. “It’s very hard on your knees, my left knee in particular—it wore down a lot of the padding inside the cartilage. I still train, but I don’t work out. It’s a whole different mentality.”
To stay in shape for his role on Person of Interest, Caviezel sticks to low-impact activities to ensure he doesn’t further damage his joints. “In the off-season, I’ll swim every day, around 4,000 meters each workout,” he says. Once the season’s underway, though, the actor faces a major time crunch and has to schedule his workouts around his long hours on set. “[When we’re filming], a half day for me is eight hours,” says Caviezel. “A full day can be anywhere from 15 to 19 hours on set.” He’ll start the day with a hot yoga workout to open up his muscles, and end it with a 30-minute evening workout on the stationary bike. “I do that Monday through Friday,” he says. “Sometimes, I’ll swap the cycling for an intense situp workout, about 1,000 situps in different positions. The goal is to get a good lather going.”
Caviezel also heads into the gym for what he calls his “country-boy workout” to simulate the long hours he worked on the farm growing up. “My dad would have me go and bale hay,” he explains. “By the time the summer’s over, your wrists, hands, and forearms are like hooks.” He says the workouts helped him develop a killer grip strength. More important, it’s these long workouts that help him recover quickly during filming, he says.
In the kitchen, Caviezel eschews processed sugars and focuses on basic, healthy recipes instead: “The philosophy is all about recovering as quickly as I can,” he says. “The most important thing is how your body feels in the moment. Anything that takes away from that is just exhaustion.” Greens, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, and chicken make up the bulk of his diet; he’ll also give himself a jolt with a cup of green tea if he’s feeling lethargic.
While Caviezel hasn’t been able to enjoy basketball as much as he did in his youth, he still credits his success to what he learned while hooping. “I know how to rest and recover,” he says. “What’s sustained me is being able to get into difficult situations [and succeed]. It’s the same as going to the foul line—I have to stay in the present. It seems to work well with acting, too.”
Caviezel’s exercise routine is based on his early days on the farm, combined with a bench-press workout he picked up from NBA legend Karl Malone. Your goal should be to complete the workout without decreasing the weight as you go through it.
Reps: 30 (30 sec. rest between each set)