Interview: The Actor Who Plays Jesus in “The Encounter”

Posted on May 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Bruce Marchiano spoke to me about playing Jesus in a touching new film called “The Encounter.”  A group of stranded travelers come to the “Last Chance Diner” out in the woods.  The man behind the counter tells them he is Jesus.  It takes some of them longer than others to hear him.  He has also played Jesus in “The Visual Bible.”

It’s quite a challenge for an actor, isn’t it?

It is in the sense of the responsibility, but it isn’t in the sense of the simplicity of it.  When you’re Jesus, what you do is you just LOVE people!  No matter who they are, what their circumstances, their arguments against you, you just pour love into their lives, along with all the truth and the holiness and everything.

That relates to my favorite part of the performance — the way you listened.  Not all actors can show that, but for Jesus, I think it is very important.

If anybody listened, it was Jesus.  We think of him as talking all the time but there is nothing more fundamental than his ear for people’s hearts.  A woman once asked me if I get tired of playing Jesus.  No!  I’d do it all day long every day.

How did you come to this project?

As a hired actor it all happened very quickly for me.  I had played Jesus before.  Out of the blue I got an email from the director, who I had never met before, asking me if I’d be interested in playing Jesus in this film.  He sent me the script and we met for coffee.  I always have to say, “I have a different angle on this thing.”  For me, it’s about all the love and heartbreak over people’s pain, that’s the most important thing to get across.  David said, “Amen” and the next thing I knew we were working together.  So often we get a man who’s detached and a little bit aloof.  But as evidenced by the choices He made in his life, there’s nothing aloof about Him.

I laughed when one of the characters said it was like a “Twilight Zone” episode because I was thinking the same thing.

That was David’s concept, to make it almost “Twilight-Zone-ish” — so it worked!

Movies like this are like modern-day parables, a different mechanism for delivering the same message.

You’re exactly right.  As Christian movies often go, we’re all working for pennies on the dollar but with a passion for bringing the gospel to people in new and savvy ways.  One of the things I appreciated about it was that unusually for Christian movies there was a grittiness and realness to the setting.  I don’t like it when they look Hallmark card-ish and not real.  And Jesus was a blue collar guy with a scruffy beard.

And Jesus serves in it, too.  Does it spill over into your daily life?

I sure hope so!  When I did the first one I had remarkable experiences, not weird and supernatural, just understanding His heart in a new and unique way.  And the same thing happened with “The Encounter.”  At the end of the film when the guy makes the choice to go his own way, I just spontaneously broke down weeping, profusely.  It was a little uncomfortable for a lot of the crew!  Some of them had a hard time picturing Jesus being affected like that but it helped me to understand the depth of his heart in a fresh and unique way.  There were two projects I turned down.  Jesus has to be loving people and crying tears over their pain.  If people don’t understand that, they’re missing the point.  In another one they hired a director who didn’t know the Lord.  How can someone direct that story if he doesn’t have access to the spirit of God?

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41 Replies to “Interview: The Actor Who Plays Jesus in “The Encounter””

  1. I watched this movie the other day …. It is a truly remarkable experience for me and one of the beat Christian films I have ever watched I highly recommend it for anyone who is a Christian

    1. Many thanks for commenting, Rick. I hope your endorsement brings others to this film.

  2. A fantastic movie and a performance of Jesus that brought me even closer. It may seem odd, but that is very much the way I picture Jesus to be, personal caring and love. Thanks for the movie and the performance.

    1. Thank you, Ms. Jeter, I don’t think that’s odd at all — I am so glad you saw this film and were moved by it.

  3. My fiance’ and I we’re getting ready for our usual Saturday “movie night” and she downloaded this movies form Nexflix and I thought it was a scarey movies and what about to turn it off. However we watched that first five minutes of the film and I instantly couldn’t look away. I loved the film for the beginning to end. The pratical way in which the film was created made the message much more clear. Most christian movies I’ve seen are often spoken in another language with historical undertones but this film was far different. It was so related about I told my fiance’ “I so want to be in that diner with Jesus”. This movies definitely moved the both of us. Sunday morning service was extra special because through this film I felts as if I had a special encounter with God. Very moving film and I have suggested it everyone I know about “The Encounter”. The best Christian film i’ve seen and a long time.

    1. Thank you so much Cassandra for this wonderful comment. I am so happy that you and your fiance saw this film and were moved by it. I know your post will encourage others to try it as well. Best wishes for your wedding!

  4. Watched this movie last night, it touched my heart in a way I can’t describe. Seeing Jesus portrayed this way was a comfort and blessing that I needed so much. His love for us was made more real to me than it has been for a while now. Such a blessing to see.

    1. Thank you, Patty! I hope your comment inspires others to seek out this meaningful and inspiring film.

  5. watched the movie yesterday,can’t help was really an Encounter with HIM as i sat there..i know watching it wasn’t an accident,i believe it was the perfect time for me to see it, as i was on a struggling situation..just love it!

  6. Saw this movie and was transfixed by the roles played by all of the actors that brought out the story. I felt like I was living in parts of the lives of the different people in that diner because the human issues they were struggling with were so very real. I could personally identify with many of the things that were said on both sides of the issue. But to put the human condition and the tragedy of it all behind the backdrop of a simple diner and a man called Jesus serving dinner was brutally effective. I am a Christian but I went through a conversion experience none the less just watching the breakdowns as one by one the actors realise this man is who he claims to be. I was really transported to that diner…in some strange way I was really there forgetting this is just a story.I also cried at several points in the movie because of how hard the Jesus figure wanted to reach different individuals and how some resisted and others openly accepted. But at times it made me weep that he would serve them with the delicious foods they loved…he seemed genuinely happy that they liked the food he served…how innocent…how loving…how sweet…I was saddened by it and felt perhaps for a tiny glint of a moment what he felt. The mixed complicated love for human kind.

    One other brillant thing about this film is that it did not seem to come from any particular point of view. Not the heavy handed philosophical poundings of the Left Behind movies or the grandiouse cenamatic self agrandizing of The Greatest Story Ever Told (which I do like none the less) or overly syruppy offerings of the Hallmark offerings. Anyone left watching this would experience the joy and sadness no matter what walk of life they came from. How could something so simple as a man in a diner yeild something so beautiful, touching, wonderful and powerful as this?

    1. Thank you, Wilson. I am so glad you were touched by this lovely film and its portrayal of Jesus as a source of love and compassion.

  7. I stumbled on this movie late one evening, and couldn’t stop watching. I was especially moved because the message wasn’t watered down: it was either one believes or one doesn’t. There isn’t a ‘comfortable’ medium that’s left as an option. I believed it strenthened my walk with Christ, and at the end of it, I felt like I had to tell others about it. My pastor even commented after seeing it that Bruce’s depiction of Jesus is exactly the way he believes Christ is like: welcoming, smiling, gracious, serving, and with an immeasurable amount of love just waiting there for you. There is no wonder why Bruce loves playing Jesus! A truly inspiring film and would make a terrific Christmas gift!

  8. I believe that this would make a good play for churches to put on. I wonder if Bruce Marchiano is available or if they would consider touring to do this play in dinner theaters or such. What I cannot decipher is the words he spoke after the Officer D’evil say, “that’s one for me!” Then Jesus’ character says something to the effect of “forsake thee” or “force it free”. Maybe somebody can help with this?

  9. In response to Mark Dandrea’s question…my wife and I just watched this movie for the second time with her parents. What he said to officer D’evil is “Four set free.” God bless!

  10. I had not heard of this movie until I saw this clip while looking for movies depicting Christ in modern days. Now it is a must for me to locate and purchase. I am very impressed with what I saw and the interview.

  11. I have seen this film 12 times. Picking scriptures from the Bible, related to it, I have determine it would make a great witnessing tool. Very few people know about this film. Being in a position at work to make small talk to strangers, I get enough of an engagement to determine were they are at in life. So for I have purchased 15 DVDs and have given 10 away. This is a bit expensive, but with a unopened DVD in hand;
    hopefully, they would be more likely to view it. Thanks so much for producing such a great film.

    1. Thanks for a wonderful comment, Mr. Russell! I am so glad to hear you are supporting this inspiring film.

  12. Before I even knew that Bruce was playing Jesus, I noticed the sparkle in his eyes. The sparkle of the Holy Spirit!
    Wonderful Movie! A new favorite!

  13. Steve Sting Borden,i thank you so much for playing JESUS very well.I believe that film is one of the most powerful movie.I suggest that every one has to see this movie.I got my DVD from name of the movie is:The Encounter! Steve Sting Borden, job well done. God Bless you!Thanks a billion. Louis

  14. I love this movie when my sister showed me this i really liked it and of I want to be an actress but with movies like this I really like this movie and I wanted to cry! I think he did an excellent job on playing Jesus i even gasped for air!

    1. Thank you, Natalia! I am so glad you were touched by this lovely film and checked out my interview.

    1. Thank you, Barry. I appreciate your sharing your response to this touching and inspiring film. May your life be blessed by your giving to others.

  15. Last night was movie night for me. It has been a rough couple of months and I just wanted to veg and watch mindless video. I loaded “The Encounter” off Netflix because I had just finished watching two other films that had Bruce Marchiano in them. As an actor I felt that Bruce pulled off playing Jesus well and wanted to see more of his work.

    As I was watching “The Encounter” I kept thinking how grand it would be to meet Jesus in a diner and how lucky those people were. I was even getting a little jealous of fictional characters (how pathetic). I even thought how great it would be if Jesus would just talk to me…and then it happened. No it wasn’t a booming voice from the sky or even a voice in my head; it was coming from the TV. It was Bruce/Jesus talking to ME! Well not really. It was part of the movie but they touched on a problem one of the characters was having and Jesus was telling that character why and what HE wanted for the character. The character’s problem was the same problem I am dealing with. I suddenly realized I was meant to see this movie because it had a message I needed to hear, and since I wasn’t listening, God had to find a way for me to hear it. SO I sat listening to Bruce/Jesus, while I cried and prayed.

    I didn’t get to meet Jesus in a diner or hear a voice in my head but I did get a message from God. I believe that Bruce played a small part in it because it was his previous performances that got me to watch “The Encounter”. So to Bruce – Thank You.

    BTW after the movie I accessed a program on my computer that gives me a scripture a day and it reinforced God’s message to me. It was James 1:12

    1. George — Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring story. They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Something in you made you ready for exactly this message and I am so glad this film and this performance were there to make sure you heard it. Blessings to you and all you care for.

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