Jude Law will topline Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s TV series, with the working title “The Young Pope,” about an imaginary pontiff who is the first Italian-American pope in history. Rupert Murdoch’s paybox Sky and France’s Canal Plus will co-produce with HBO, marking the first multiple-player production of this type in Italy.
The series is being produced by Italy’s Wildside, and co-produced by France’s Haut et Court TV. Executive producers for Wildside are Lorenzo Mieli and Mario Gianani together with John Lyons. Executive producers for Haut et Court TV are Caroline Benjo, Carole Scotta and Simon Arnal.
Production on the eight-episode series is set to begin this summer and continue through early 2016. The show will film predominantly in Italy with additional locations to include the U.S., Africa and Puerto Rico.
Law will play Lenny Belardo, a conservative American pontiff recruited by a Vatican fed up with liberals. “No one, even at the Vatican, is prepared for how hard-line this American pope really is,” Tony Grisoni, who is one of the writers, recently told Variety.
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All eight episodes will be directed by Sorrentino and are written by Sorrentino in collaboration with Grisoni, Umberto Contarello (“The Great Beauty”) and Stefano Rulli.
A press statement described the character, who becomes Pius XIII, “a complex and conflicted character, so conservative in his choices as to border on obscurantism, yet full of compassion towards the weak and poor. He is a man of great power who is stubbornly resistant to the Vatican courtiers, unconcerned with the implications to his authority. During the series, Belardo will face losing those closest to him and the constant fear of being abandoned, even by his God. A man who is however not afraid of undertaking the millennial mission of defending that same God and the world representing Him.”
“The Young Pope” marks a major co-production for HBO and the newly merged pan-European Sky, comprising U.K., Italy and Germany, a clear sign of the new opportunities it offers.
Sorrentino won the foreign-language Oscar last year for “The Great Beauty.” His new film, “Youth,” toplining Michael Caine, will screen in the Cannes competition on May 20. Fox Searchlight acquired North American rights to the film early in the fest. Its cast also includes Paul Dano, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz and Jane Fonda.