Will there be a Vatican backlash against Paolo Sorrentino’s TV series “The Young Pope”?
That was the first question at the Venice Film Festival presser following the world premiere of the first two episodes of the show toplining Jude Law as conservative American Cardinal Lenny Belardo, who becomes Pius XIII, the first American pope in history.
He’s a rather mean, morally torn pontiff who drinks cherry Coke Zero at breakfast, smokes, and makes the most of his papal wardrobe, including red leather loafers.
“It’s the Vatican’s problem; not mine,” the Oscar-winning Italian director replied. “But it’s not even a problem. If they watch it to the end, they will see that it’s a piece that tackles their world with curiosity, honesty, and no desire to provoke.
“It doesn’t want to display any form of prejudice or intolerance,” Sorrentino added. “Rather it probes with honesty and curiosity within the constraints of 10 episodes, the contradictions and the difficulties, and also the fascinating aspects, of the clergy.”
For Law, playing Pius XIII, one his meatiest roles in years, “was an opportunity to work with Paolo, and an opportunity to play a character with plenty of contradiction and contrast,” Law said.
“The joy was to be able to play a complicated multi-layered character; and on top of that play a character playing a character, because in a way, like me playing Lenny, Lenny was playing the pope,” he added.
Sorrentino revealed that Pius XIII smokes “because I knew that [Joseph] Ratzinger smoked.” Ratzinger also wore red shoes when he was Pope Benedict XVI.
That is not the current pontiff’s style, which is much more proletarian.
“The pope we depicted is diametrically opposed to the existing pope,” said Sorrentino. “But after a progressive pope it’s in the order of things that you could get a pope with different ideas. Our pope is not unlikely; in a not too distant future a similar pope could be possible,” he added.
Both Sorrentino and Law were asked if they believed in God, but the question got lost in the shuffle and they did not reply.
The 10-episode Sky, HBO, and Canal Plus original production will roll out on Sky in Italy on Oct. 21. It will air at the end of October on Sky in the U.K., Germany, Ireland and Austria, and on Canal Plus in France.
Watch the trailer below: