An early scene in the movie required the 44-year-old actor to perform a miracle from John's Gospel, in which Jesus healed a blind man by rubbing mud in his eyes — portrayed by a woman in the film.
“I knew about that scene from the Bible, but I guess I had never really considered it,” Phoenix told CNN. “When I got there, I thought, ‘I’m not going to rub dirt in her eyes. Who the f--- would do that?’ It doesn’t make any sense. That is a horrible introduction to seeing.”
Phoenix took matters into his own hands, by simply licking his thumb and rubbing the woman's eyes. The actor, who recently played Joker, argues ditching the mud doesn't take away from the miracle Jesus performed.
"Mary Magdalene" looks at the story of Jesus from a more feminine perspective, as many biblical scholars have labeled the controversial woman, played in the movie by Phoenix's real-life girlfriend, Rooney Mara, the "first feminist" on record.
The film, directed by Garth Davis, is set for release on Good Friday. It was originally set for release in late 2017 but was repeatedly pushed back after The Weinstein Co. was caught in the multiple accusations of sexual assault against producer Harvey Weinstein.