Playing Jesus Christ in 'Mary Magdalene' helped Joaquin Phoenix realize the transformative power of forgiveness

Joaquin Phoenix might be the unlikely choice to play Jesus Christ, but the actor, whose best roles are the disturbed and unstable characters, took on Jesus for the biopic "Mary Magdalene," opposite his real-life partner, Rooney Mara, as the titular character.

(REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)Joaquin Phoenix plays Jesus Christ in the newly released film "Mary Magdalene."

The 43-year-old actor admitted that he did not grow up in a religious family, although his mom believes in Jesus. He, however, hardly remembers a time that he went to church as a child but explained that doing the movie and playing the Son of God made him understand the power of forgiveness better.

"I always thought forgiving somebody was like you were absolving them of their sins or their transgressions or whatever it is they did," Phoenix shared. "I started thinking it has more to do with the person forgiving than it is for the other person, it's such a difficult task," the actor pressed on.

He also said that he realized forgiving has the transformative power to make the person feel differently about someone who's wronged him or her. "How it changes you, that is the power, right?" Phoenix stated.

The actor also told Dazed that he received the script to "Mary Magdalene" at a time when he was exploring his spirituality. He agreed to play Jesus Christ because it was a chance to experience a man who would later become an icon of Christianity. That's how he actually picks his roles, in that he's going for it for the experience.

Hollywood thought Phoenix went into semi-retirement from acting a few years back, at 35 years old, but the actor confessed it all began as a joke that gave birth to a 2010 documentary film, "I'm Still Here." Still, Phoenix told The Guardian that there was definitely a time in his life that he wanted to quit show business, which is currently experiencing a shift with all the women coming forward, fighting and demanding equal opportunities and the end to harassment in the industry.

Phoenix understands that things are changing in Hollywood. He, however, refuses to use the word "fight" to describe the shift that's happening because violence doesn't solve violence.

"It's OK to feel anger. I guarantee you that Martin Luther King and Jesus felt anger. But it's important to have empathy," the actor said.