The actor, known for his roles in movies such as Gladiator and Her, said it would be “tragic” if modern movements don’t ensure women’s achievements are remembered in the future. But, he added: “It’s about who’s in power, right?”

Phoenix was speaking to Newsweek about his role in biblical drama Mary Magdalene, released in theaters April 12 and on demand April 19. Phoenix plays Jesus Christ, a role he was initially hesitant to take. In the end, the untold story of an apostle falsely remembered as a sex worker won him over.

To prepare for the role, he said he focused on Christ as a man and a teacher, not as an impossibly famous religious figure. “I feel like everybody that achieves a certain level of notoriety of fame gets warped [into a caricature],” he said. “I think it’s a disservice, definitely in this case.”

Like director Garth Davis (Lion) and co-star Rooney Mara (Lion, A Ghost Story), he was shocked by the story depicted in the film; that Mary Magdalene was not the sexualized character often imagined—a prostitute, or even Jesus’ wife, if you’re a fan of Dan Brown—but a witness to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

“In America, we don’t acknowledge the profound effect Mary and these other unnamed women [who attended the crucifixion] had upon this radical, rebellious, f***ing awesome, kick-ass movement,” he said. “When I heard about that I started thinking, literally how could we not know about this?”

Commenting on the Gospel of Mary—an early Christian writing, rediscovered in 1896, that many scholars believe concerns Mary Magdalene—he said: “Why was Mary’s book not included in the Bible? The stench of blatant sexism becomes, you know, inescapable.”

Read more at Newsweek.