Aviv Alush has a ten-year career as an Israeli actor, but this weekend, his worldwide exposure erupted as he played Jesus onscreen in the adaptation of Paul Young’s The Shack. In the film, a man finds himself invited to discourse with the Trinity, who show up physically with a desire to help the man recover from his “Great Sadness.” Sam Worthington plays the man, Mack, who is still grieving and angry over the murder of his daughter; joining Alush as members of the Trinity are Octavia Spencer as Papa and Sumire as the Holy Spirit or Sarayu. As he wrapped up a week of interviews to promote the film, Alush called in from Los Angeles to explain his role in a ScreenFish.net exclusive.
Alush’s first-ever English language film is a big one, and one he almost turned down because his wife was expecting their third child. But the production team wouldn’t stop, and he found a way to make the days of shooting required of him and be present for the birth of his son. While he’d begun reading the book in the process, Alush switched over to the script and explored how Young, producer Brad Cummings, and several screenwriters had crafted this version of the cinematic Jesus. To prepare, Alush said he didn’t do much differently; he just attempted to convey the emotions and character written on the page.
“I got from the script that I needed to be a good friend, and be there for Mack,” Alush explained. “All I needed to do as an actor was to be calm and to be there in each moment of my scenes.”
Referencing a scene where Alush’s Jesus walks on water with Sam Worthington’s Mack, he said that his and Worthington’s humanity was front and center. “I remember Sam saying, ‘what if I don’t want to go?’ I said, ‘this is about free choice, you don’t have to go. This is a movie – I can’t handle you!’
“Jesus was not going to fight you, he was going to let you feel comfortable and calm. He is asking you to trust him, so just go and do it. At that moment, I understood exactly what I need to do, to be there, to push him, but to give the choice.”
Still, it’s not even a scene that Alush is in that he called his favorite, instead sharing how forgiveness captured the sentiments of the movie in a scene with Mack and his daughter. Alush just shared that he’d cry and cry watching the scene, recognizing that people truly struggle with those emotions and how the film relates them. It’s what The Shack offers that Alush thinks makes it so powerful.
“I think they can learn so many things!” he exclaimed. “First of all, the movie touches people. It gives people the base of faith, that there is a God. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re born, there is a God who created everything. I also think people can be change by this movie, by forgiveness, forgiveness for the things we feel guilty about – we can be moved by that.”
While I admitted to being a proponent of the film’s message, I asked Alush what he thought of those who felt angry or threatened by the presentation of the Trinity in a way different from what they expected.
“If someone is looking to find something good there, they’re going to find it. Not everyone can be happy with everything. I think it’s a beautiful thing – that God appears like Octavia Spencer! I can tell you that there are no blonde haired guys with blue eyed in Israel!” He said, chuckling.
“People can find bad things in a beautiful flower. They live with it, bravo. But we need to keep on with love, and I think this movie was created by love and to promote love.”
There you have it, folks. Straight from Jesus himself.