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Caviezel takes ND course

Ryan Sydlik | Thursday, August 31, 2006

When junior Dave Daley walked into his intermediate Spanish class this summer and took a seat, he noticed one student was not quite like the others.

“All of a sudden someone in the back struck up a conversation with me,” Daley said. “He looked out of place, he looked older … he looked well put together, [like] this does not look like your average Notre Dame student sitting here in the classroom.”

A star-struck Daley soon found himself speaking with “Passion of the Christ” actor Jim Caviezel.

“After we had a conversation for a little while … it hit me, I was just talking to Jesus, I was just talking to Caviezel,” Daley said. “It was a funny feeling – I didn’t expect it at all.”

Assistant Vice President for News and Information Dennis Brown said while Caviezel did take classes” as a student during the summer session, he is not currently enrolled.

Brown said Caviezel – “obviously a non-traditional student” – is working with Arts and Letters Associate Director Ava Preacher on “how to proceed” at Notre Dame.

Preacher said she could not comment on the specifics of Caviezel’s situation or his future plans.

“There’s a lot of water still going under the bridge,” Preacher said. “I don’t know exactly … whether he wants to pursue [more classes] or not.”

Caviezel was here on a “non-degree-seeking basis,” Preacher said, but it’s “possible” he might come back to take more classes.

Senior Nate Norman, another of Caviezel’s classmates, enjoyed having the movie star around, calling him a “good guy” who “liked hanging out with the students.”

Norman said Caviezel – who never shied away from sharing his cell phone number, giving autographs and taking pictures with fans – often treated students to lunch, invited them to join him for Mass and ran with the soccer team.

“I’ll be scanning through my cell phone sometimes and just all of a sudden run across Jim Caviezel,” he said. “It’s kind of surreal to have that.”

Daley said he also found Caviezel to be a “nice guy” who was “passionate and wanting to share, sharing everything that he took from his events of his life.”

Caviezel could not maintain a low profile for long, Daley said, for “everybody realized at a certain point it was him, it was kind of a buzz … During breaks a lot of people flocked over [to] him to hear want he wanted to say.”

But fame never went to the star’s head. Daley said Caviezel was always very dedicated and attentive in class.

“He asked a lot of questions – he seemed very much to want to understand [Spanish],” he said.

Caviezel told Daley he wanted to understand Spanish so that he could use it for a Bible translation project.

Daley said he thought Caviezel was also a great inspiration for the class and often said if you really dive into the subject, you will get that much more out of it. Caviezel also pointed out the importance of learning Spanish due to a growing Spanish-speaking population in the United States, he said.

Caviezel stressed the importance of family, Daley said, and “he would take out his cell phone and show us clips of his adopted son from China who had a brain tumor.”

The actor not only spoke of his personal family, but also of his newly found Notre Dame family, Daley said.

“If he was going to get a degree from anywhere, it had to be Notre Dame … it couldn’t be anywhere else,” he said the actor wanted more from the University than “just coming back for the USC football game.”

Caviezel also joked about balancing the life of an actor and student.

“He joked with me that I would probably have grandkids before he finished his degree but that it was very important to get his degree,” Daley said.

Although he is most well known for his role as “Jesus” in “The Passion of The Christ”, Daley said Caviezel is uneasy about being called that.

He would, however, joke about the nickname and say, “I am not Jesus but I am the Count of Monte Cristo,” Daley said.

Kate Antonacci and Maddie Hanna contributed to this report.