Actor Jim Caviezel risked his job as a waiter to ask movie great James Stewart for career advice at a presidential function.

The Passion of the Christ star was told he would be fired if he did more than serve drinks to guests at the bash in the 1980s, but he took a chance when he realised one of his acting heroes was there.

He recalls, "There were all these celebrities in line to meet the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, and we were told by the secret service that if we talked to anybody they would fire us on the spot."

But Caviezel was in a fix after he was turned down for a spot at the United States Naval Academy for a third time.

He adds, "I had a shot at going to (military academy) West Point. I was 21 years old and I saw Jimmy Stewart walk by with his wife and I thought, 'You know I could get fired talking to that guy but it would be worth it'.

"I walked over to him and asked him if he'd like a drink and he said, 'I'll take a scotch and soda'. I brought him his drink and said, 'Mr. Stewart you flew in World War Ii and a lot of people in my generation don't know you did over 40 missions flying over Germany and you are an absolute hero'.

"I told him I didn't get in to the Naval Academy and didn't know what I was going to do next; maybe get into acting. And he said, 'Young man, whatever you do, you'll make good movies'."

The vote of confidence was just what Caviezel needed to hear and he dedicated himself to perfecting his acting skills.