After casting Jude Law in the title role as a young conservative American pontiff, and Diane Keaton as a nun, the cast for Paolo Sorrentino-directed TV series “The Young Pope” has been rounded out with a slew of top international talent.
James Cromwell, who will play Cardinal Michael Spencer, who is Lenny’s mentor; Silvio Orlando, a regular in Nanni Moretti movies, who is set for the role of Cardinal Voiello, the Secretary of State; and Scott Shepherd, who will play Cardinal Dussolier, from South America.
Cecile de France will play Sofia, who is in charge of marketing in the Vatican City; while Javier Camara is set to play Cardinal Gutierrez, the Master of Ceremonies of the Vatican City. Ludivine Sagnier (“Swimming Pool”) (pictured) will play Esther, the wife of a Swiss guard, and Italian theatre actor Toni Bertorelli has been cast as Cardinal Caltanissetta.
Additional cast members include: Guy Boyd, Andre Gregory, Sebastian Roche, Marcello Romolo, Ignazio Oliva, Vladimir Bibic and Nadie Kammalaweera.
Per the press notes “The Young Pope” tells the controversial story of the beginning of the pontificate of Pius XIII, born Lenny Belardo. “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. He is however not afraid of undertaking the millennial mission of defending that same God and the world representing Him.”
Describing the series in a statement Paolo Sorrentino said: ”The clear signs of God’s existence. The clear signs of God’s absence. How faith can be searched for and lost. The greatness of holiness, so great as to be unbearable when you are fighting temptations and when all you can do is to yield to them. The inner struggle between the huge responsibility of the Head of the Catholic Church and the miseries of the simple man that fate (or the Holy Spirit) chose as Pontiff. Finally, how to handle and manipulate power in a state whose dogma and moral imperative is the renunciation of power and selfless love towards one’s neighbour. That is what The Young Pope is about.”
It will be interesting to see Jude Law playing Lenny Belardo/Pius XIII yielding to temptation though the prism of Sorrentino’s surreal dark storytelling.
Sorrentino won the foreign-language Oscar last year for “The Great Beauty.” His new film, “Youth,” toplining Michael Caine, screened at Cannes. Fox Searchlight acquired North American rights to the film early in the fest. The “Youth” cast also includes Paul Dano, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz and Jane Fonda.
The”Young Pope” series is being produced by Italy’s Wildside, and co-produced by Gaul’s Haut et Court TV and Spain’s MEDIAPRO. Executive Producers for Wildside are Lorenzo Mieli and Mario Gianani together with former Focus Features president John Lyons. Executive Producers for Haut et Court TV are Caroline Benjo, Carole Scotta and Simon Arnal.
Sorrentino’s eight-episode skein started shooting in Rome this week.
All eight episodes will be directed by Sorrentino and are written by himself in collaboration with ace British screenwriter Toni Grisoni (“Southcliffe”), Umberto Contarello (“The Great Beauty”) and Stefano Rulli (“The Best of Youth”).
“The Young Pope” marks a major co-production with HBO for the the newly merged pan-European Sky, comprising U.K., Italy and Germany, a clear sign of the new opportunities this new player offers and of its ambition in the international arena.